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Charges dropped in Mich. cell phone case
AP / Yahoo! News ^ | Tue Sep 5, 9:07 PM ET | DAVID N. GOODMAN

Posted on 09/06/2006 4:40:52 AM PDT by FreedomPoster

DETROIT - A federal judge threw out conspiracy and money laundering charges Tuesday against three Texas men once accused of plotting a terror attack on Michigan's iconic Mackinac Bridge.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Charles Binder in Bay City ruled that federal prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to justify bringing them to trial on charges involving the buying and resale of prepaid cell phones. They were cleared earlier of the terror charges.

Defense lawyers claimed the men — Louai Othman, 23, his brother Adham Othman, 21, and their cousin Maruan Muhareb, 18, all of Mesquite, Texas — were targeted because of their Middle Eastern heritage. All are Palestinian-American.

"I'm happy to be going home, and I'm happy that I'm free," Adham Othman said through his lawyer, Christopher McGrath.

The three were arrested Aug. 11 after buying large numbers of prepaid cell phones at a Wal-Mart outlet in Caro, about 80 miles north of Detroit.

Tuscola County authorities said they were alarmed by the hundreds of prepaid cell phones they said were found in the men's van and by images on their digital camera of the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, which links Michigan's two peninsulas.

They charged the men with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and with surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes.

The FBI and state police later said there was no imminent threat to the landmark span and no information linking the Othmans and Muhareb to known terrorist groups.

Michigan charges against the men were thrown out Aug. 16. But federal authorities continued to press a separate case against the men, saying the phone purchases were part of an illegal scheme to remove propriety software and resell the phones. TracFone Wireless Inc. and Nokia Corp. have filed civil suits elsewhere seeking to stop the practice.

Messages seeking comment were left with the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit.

Muhareb said he insisted all along that his phone-buying activities were legal. "This is what I told them from the beginning," he said through his defense attorney, Mona Fadlallah.

She said the case highlighted serious problems with the state of the U.S. justice system.

"This should be frightening for everyone, and not just people of Middle Eastern descent," Fadlallah said.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: Michigan; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: cellphones; detroit; dueprocess; fbi; softoncrime; terrorism; tuscolacounty
OK, so what the heck were they really doing? Does anyone hang out on HowardForums? Any speculation there? Were they really just disassembling the phones for the parts?
1 posted on 09/06/2006 4:40:53 AM PDT by FreedomPoster
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To: FreedomPoster

I am pretty sure these guys are on someones "watch" list.

At least I hope they are.


2 posted on 09/06/2006 4:43:11 AM PDT by sgtbono2002 (The fourth estate is a fifth column.)
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To: FreedomPoster

All are Palestinian-American.
Adham Othman said through his lawyer.........

Okay - What's wrong with this picture?


3 posted on 09/06/2006 4:44:46 AM PDT by LFOD (IRAQ - Back in downtown Baghdad)
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To: FreedomPoster

OK, but they were reselling the phones without a valid retail license at the least.


4 posted on 09/06/2006 4:48:11 AM PDT by ikka
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To: FreedomPoster

Detroit protects it's terrorists. The new motto for the state of Michigan


5 posted on 09/06/2006 4:48:24 AM PDT by OldFriend (I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag.....and My Heart to the Soldier Who Protects It.)
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To: FreedomPoster

They basically got the federales to play up terror for them. An older wiser FBI woulda not said squat about the Mackinac pix, knowing they had no case.


6 posted on 09/06/2006 4:48:31 AM PDT by The Red Zone
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To: freeperfromnj; NormsRevenge; Azzurri; grobdriver; ritewingwarrior

Some pings to folks on the related thread here:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1684109/posts


7 posted on 09/06/2006 4:49:27 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: FreedomPoster
On the surface, idiot judge. They weren't targeted because of their Middle Eastern heritage but because who the heck needs hundreds of cell phones. OTOH, maybe there's hope that they are watching these guys.
8 posted on 09/06/2006 4:55:49 AM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: FreedomPoster
How can you make money driving around and buying up lots of commonly available items and then reselling them?

The cost of gasoline, the time they spent going to different stores to get the phones, and the very large sum used to buy the phones themselves seems to make it a very unprofitable business venture.

It's possible they were taking the phones apart or reprogramming them for a use other than their intended use, and then reselling them for that purpose, but it sounds like that is also illegal.

It sounds like there was a reasonable suspicion that these guys were involved with terrorism, but if the evidence of that is lacking it still sounds like their actions were illegal, and the government can still follow up any leads that might link these men to terrorists, and people are going to be watching people who buy lots of cell phones more carefully now as well.

Seems like the government is doing their job reasonably well in this case.

9 posted on 09/06/2006 5:14:44 AM PDT by untrained skeptic
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To: FreedomPoster

Something never mentioned and very surprisingly here - never asked .... What happened to all the cell phones?


10 posted on 09/06/2006 5:31:00 AM PDT by TimesDomain (When a judge declares himself "MASTER", you become his "SLAVE")
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To: FreedomPoster

This is the problem with not having a declared war. Enemy agents need a support network that does acts that doen't rise to sabotage to gather the materials for sabotage.
It's very hard to prove comspiracy based on the purchase of wire, or batteries or cell phones. that's in a criminal case. In a combat zone, anyone caught with those items would be detained for interrogation, and then put in a pow camp. And in this case , the worlds the combat zone.


11 posted on 09/06/2006 5:38:21 AM PDT by Waverunner
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To: metmom; untrained skeptic
If you don't understand it, then it must be terrorism related.

TracFone sells the Nokia phones at a loss, hoping to make it up when the buyer spends money on minutes. If the phones are unlocked, such that they can be used on a non-TracFone network, then they can be resold at more than they cost at WalMart. There is a whole industry out there supporting this sort of operation.

12 posted on 09/06/2006 5:46:19 AM PDT by ordinaryguy
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To: untrained skeptic

A $19.95 Tracphone could easily be sold for $30.00 as pieces. Multiply $10 profit by 1,00 phones and you have a tidy sum ($10,000)

Tracphone practically gives their phones away, in hopes that the purchaser will buy time to recharge their phone.

You could sell the battery for $5 with $5 shipping and handling (shipping would be less than 50 cents). Sell the phone (less battery)for $10 bucks (with $8 shipping, cost of shipping it $4). Sell the card with 30 mins time for $1 ($3 shipping).

On ebay for a time one of the big selling items was Lexmark printers. Lexmark sold their printer for $30 with a printer cartrige in it. Refill cartriges were $25. The seller would buy a printer, pull the cartrige and sell it on ebay for $15 ($8 s/h), and the printer for $15 ($15 S/h). Many 1,000's were sold that way.

A smart person can walk into Wal Mart, Target, Home Depot, and pick out the items to sell on ebay with easily 50% profit and sometimes 300% profit.


13 posted on 09/06/2006 5:47:41 AM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: LFOD
"All are Palestinian-American. Adham Othman said through his lawyer......... Okay - What's wrong with this picture?"

There is no such thing as a palestinian or a palestinian-American.
14 posted on 09/06/2006 5:48:26 AM PDT by Dixie Yooper (Ephesians 6:11)
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To: Lokibob
On ebay for a time one of the big selling items was Lexmark printers. Lexmark sold their printer for $30 with a printer cartrige in it. Refill cartriges were $25.

Some printers ship with a starter cartridge with substantially less ink than in refill cartridges. I don't know whether Lexmark does that.

15 posted on 09/06/2006 5:52:29 AM PDT by ordinaryguy
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To: FreedomPoster; Blogger
If this was the only incidence of large cell phone purchases, it would be alarming enough, but this is only one of many (click on the icons for more details).
16 posted on 09/06/2006 5:55:02 AM PDT by jellybean (Proud to be an Ann-droid and a Steyn-aholic)
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To: ordinaryguy

Absolutely, but most people don't know that, so they bid the cartriges up to close to the retail price, thinking they are getting a bargain. Remember, let the buyer beware.


17 posted on 09/06/2006 5:56:03 AM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: Lokibob
I've seen used stuff sell on ebay for more than it would cost the buyer if they just went down to the store and bought it new.
18 posted on 09/06/2006 6:00:24 AM PDT by ordinaryguy
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To: Lokibob
OK, Bob.

Show me auctions on E-bay selling the types of phones in the stories, during the last 3 months.

...oh, and maybe research the sellers to see if they are Islamic...?

Cheers!

19 posted on 09/06/2006 6:14:49 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
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To: Lokibob

These men in the story are well known resellers of cell phones at the miles of flea market "wholesale" shops on Harry Hines in Dallas. They travel around to Wal Marts buying phones. Some american store owners came forward and vouched for them, said they've been doing it for years.


20 posted on 09/06/2006 6:21:49 AM PDT by T. Jefferson
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To: T. Jefferson

That's the sort of thing I was looking for.

Lord knows, the Old Media isn't smart enough to find stuff like that.


21 posted on 09/06/2006 6:24:03 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: FreedomPoster

I can see them ebaying these items, BUT why are texas residents in detroit buying the phones??


22 posted on 09/06/2006 6:41:52 AM PDT by ThisLittleLightofMine
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To: ordinaryguy

How does one unlock these phones?


23 posted on 09/06/2006 6:42:57 AM PDT by ThisLittleLightofMine
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To: ThisLittleLightofMine

There are all kinds of hacks to unlock phones on HowardForums, or were in the past. Don't know about these specific phones.


24 posted on 09/06/2006 6:48:06 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: ThisLittleLightofMine

Good question.


25 posted on 09/06/2006 6:48:37 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: FreedomPoster

bump


26 posted on 09/06/2006 6:50:57 AM PDT by fso301
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To: LFOD

Theres no such thing as a "palestinian"


27 posted on 09/06/2006 7:26:04 AM PDT by pitinkie (revenge will be sweet)
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To: TimesDomain

Actually I was thinking the very same thing as soon as I started reading the article.


28 posted on 09/06/2006 7:33:15 AM PDT by Albertafriend
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To: FreedomPoster

And somewhere in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is laughing at the foolish USA.


29 posted on 09/06/2006 7:58:45 AM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Democrats. French, but more cowardly.)
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To: grey_whiskers
Here is a complete tracphone  set up that I saw in Wal Mart y-day for $19.95.  He will get $34.99 plus the $14.99 shipping, I guarantee it.
 
Here is the nokia 1100 battery for the above phone.  He is charging $5 for the battery plus $6 shipping.  The shipping on this will run less than $1.
 
As for the race of the seller, it is all anonymous on ebay.
 
The article did not say what model phone they were buying, so I just picked one (nokia 1100).
 
Trust me on this GB, I have sold a lot of stuff on ebay.
 
 
 

30 posted on 09/06/2006 11:04:45 AM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: ordinaryguy; Lokibob
I understand that the phones are worth more as parts than the price for which they are sold.

However, if you're going to invest that much money in buying that many of them, you're going to have some kind of plan for how you're going to sell off the parts. They are either going to have to have a waiting customer for parts in bulk, or have a plan for moving those parts to lots of customers quickly, and have probably already done it before in lower volumes.

Unlocking the phones means they aren't locked to that network anymore, however they would have to be reprogrammed to work on a different network. That violates the licensing agreements for both networks and likely breaks a number of laws as well.

Once again, they will also need to have a market for 1000+ illegally reprogrammed phones in a rather short time, otherwise they wouldn't be buying so many at once.

It's quite possible that there is no direct terrorism connection, though there may be an indirect connection if they are selling the phones for parts.

However, considering the number of phones involved, these guys were up to something on a pretty large scale that is likely going to land them in jail and civil court even though the terrorism related charges have been dropped.

31 posted on 09/06/2006 4:15:50 PM PDT by untrained skeptic
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To: untrained skeptic

You mean you wouldn't invest $20,000 today (1,000 phones times $20) to get back $40,000+ over the next 2 years? To me, that is a 50% return / year. Get that kind of interest rate in a bank.

A friend buys 1,000 tv antennas at a time from China and gets a terrific discount. He sells them on Ebay, 1 or 2 a day and gets triple what he pays.

Another person buys left over summer clothes on the clearance rack at the gap etc.. she waits till next spring and sells them for 100% markup.


32 posted on 09/06/2006 5:06:13 PM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: Lokibob
OK, one point to you. First hurdle cleared.

Now please explain why our Muslim entrepreneurs were opening the packages and stripping out components--didn't they remove more than just the battery?

Then tell me how many of these phones *are* sold on Ebay -- not each individual phone, but how many phones of this type does Ebay sell?

Finally, are the Muzzies the ones doing the selling on Ebay?

Cheers!

33 posted on 09/06/2006 7:06:49 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
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To: grey_whiskers

You are asking for a lot of research that I'm unwilling to do.

I just checked and ebay presently is selling 874 nokia 1100 phones or batteries. And that is just this week alone.

No, it isn't just muslems doing the selling on ebay. It is the Muslems that were cought.

Remember. EBAY is a world wide business, from China to England.

You got mail coming,
Bob


34 posted on 09/07/2006 12:05:52 AM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: Lokibob
You mean you wouldn't invest $20,000 today (1,000 phones times $20) to get back $40,000+ over the next 2 years? To me, that is a 50% return / year. Get that kind of interest rate in a bank.

You're ignoring all other expenses of attaining and selling these phones. If you discount their time and money spent driving all over the place to get these, the costs and time spent to reprogram or disassemble these, and the time and cost to market and sell them, you're a horrible businessman.

You're also ignoring the fact that these are commonly available in small quantity. Why buy 1000 of them and have that much money tied up if it's going to take you two years to sell them? Why risk that someone else will flood the market and the price you can get for them will plummet? Why risk that the service providers might change something to make the way you reprogram them useless?

It makes no sense to buy that many unless you can move them quickly for this kind of product.

A friend buys 1,000 tv antennas at a time from China and gets a terrific discount. He sells them on Ebay, 1 or 2 a day and gets triple what he pays.

Buying in quantity to get a discount makes sense. He gets them inexpensively because he buys a large quantity at once. There's no quantity discount on these phones. However, it he's only selling one or two a day, it's going to take him 2 or 3 years to sell them all. He's going to have to store hundreds of them for a long time. He's going to have to package them up and ship them individually.

His labor for putting them up on ebay, storage for all those antennas, taxes on inventory (if he runs his business legally), make that sound like a horrible investment unless he sells considerably more than 1 or 2 a day.

Another person buys left over summer clothes on the clearance rack at the gap etc.. she waits till next spring and sells them for 100% markup.

If you choose wisely, I'm sure you can make a bit of money doing this, however you're gambling that you know better than the professional buyers at the Gap, and that the sizes and styles that didn't sell (that's why they are on clearance) are going to sell next spring well enough to justify storing them, and the time and whatever other expenses are expended trying to sell them in the spring. Any that don't sell are a loss.

It doesn't take much before after the money you spend and the time you spend, plus the fact that you are either paying storage expenses or taking up a lot of space in your home you are paying for, you end up making very little money for your time, or even losing money.

But once again with buying these clothes, there is a reason why you need to buy them all right then. They are on clearance. With these phones, they can buy a smaller quantity and restock as they need more to meet demand. Why tie up all their cash on inventory if they don't need to do so?

35 posted on 09/07/2006 5:42:44 AM PDT by untrained skeptic
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To: untrained skeptic

This has devolved into an ebay seminar.

A few years ago, I met a man who deals in batteries for cameras. He employs 15 people in his shop and sells the batteries on ebay.

He goes to China once a year with a shopping list in hand and buys them by the container load.

He was one of a few people in an real ebay seminar that raised his hand when asked "which of you net $100,000 a year or more."

By the way, there are over 500 people in the U.S. that make over $1,000,000 a year net. Another statistic, there are over 15,000,000 items sold on ebay every week.

I never made over $200 a month in the years I did ebay, but then again, I didn't work at it. It always was a hobby.


36 posted on 09/07/2006 7:07:14 AM PDT by Lokibob (Spelling and typos are copyrighted. Please do not use.)
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To: Waverunner
It's very hard to prove comspiracy based on the purchase of wire, or batteries or cell phones. that's in a criminal case. In a combat zone, anyone caught with those items would be detained for interrogation, and then put in a pow camp. And in this case, the worlds the combat zone.

In other news, Radio Shack stock fell on a news report that 90% of its customer base had been relocated to Guantanamo Bay.

37 posted on 09/07/2006 7:22:45 AM PDT by steve-b ("Creation Science" is to the religous right what "Global Warming" is to the socialist left.)
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To: steve-b

What the difference - dealing with the sales help at radio shack, or being interrogated at guantanomo bay?

Oh and BTW. How many thousands of spare cell phones do you keep in your car?


38 posted on 09/07/2006 10:22:13 AM PDT by Waverunner
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To: Lokibob
A few years ago, I met a man who deals in batteries for cameras. He employs 15 people in his shop and sells the batteries on ebay.<\i>

Economies of scale often make sense, as long as you can move the products. Maintaining inventory is expensive.

However, there needs to be a benefit to buying in bulk. There wasn't such a benefit with these phones. That's the point I've been trying to make. Why buy 1000 if you can't sell them right away, and it's easy to go out and get more and you don't save on quantity?

I'm not saying that you can't make good money buying and selling things. I'm saying that they way these two were buying and selling things doesn't make sense.

I also don't suggest you try selling reprogrammed cell phones on ebay. You'll likely find yourself in jail. You can sell parts on ebay, I've bought some old cell phone parts for an electronics project I played with that way. However, I don't see a reason to go any buy a thousand of them to sell for parts unless you can more the parts quickly, otherwise you're just sitting on inventory for no reason, because if you need more you can just go get more from your local Walmart. You're just wasting your money by having all those phones sitting around.

You keep bringing up examples where there are good reasons to buy in bulk, but ignoring that those same reasons don't exist in this case.

39 posted on 09/08/2006 8:19:51 AM PDT by untrained skeptic
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