Skip to comments.FBI searches Palm Beach County ex-home of Saudi family
Posted on 01/22/2003 2:30:57 AM PST by Ranger
FBI agents Tuesday night searched the former home of a Saudi family, who a neighbor said had enrolled an adult son in a nearby flight training school and had left ''in a hurry'' two days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
State records and neighbors in the upscale neighborhood in Greenacres, which is just southwest of West Palm Beach, identified the head of the family as Mohamad Almasri, 57.
According to state records, others who lived at the house were Madawi Almasri, 26; Turki Ma Almasri, 22; and Afaf I. Arif, 47.
Neighbors said Almasri lived at the home with his wife, a son and daughter in their late teens or early 20s, and a younger son and daughter.
Several agents, some in white biohazard suits, arrived Tuesday afternoon at the home at 1606 Doral Dr. in Fairway Isles, a gated community, neighbors said.
Into the night, agents went in and out of the home, carrying plastic and paper bags, and dug up parts of the front yard.
Neighbors said they saw the agents carrying what appeared to be metal detectors.
A pickup hauling a large metal trailer was backed up to the front door.
Miami FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said Tuesday night that the agents were acting on a search warrant. She would not say what they were looking for or might have found or whether there was any link to the ongoing national terrorist investigations.
At least 12 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked jets on Sept. 11 had addresses showing they once lived in Palm Beach County.
Lisa Dickerson, Martha Ruth's daughter, said she watched Mohamad Almasri hustle his family into their car on Sept. 9, 2000. She said that a few days after the attacks, when news reports began focusing on possible connections between the terrorists and the nearby Lantana airport, she called a special national FBI hot line.
''It was just the way he put them in,'' Dickerson said. ``It happened so fast.''
Martha Ruth, Dickerson's mother, said the home has been empty ever since, although she recalled briefly seeing Almasri or the adult son in the home a few days or weeks after the family's abrupt departure. Neighbors said they also grew suspicious when the grass in the yard became overgrown and cars normally out front were gone.
Neighbors said homeowners association officers tried to track down the family without result, and that at one association meeting in the last year, at least one family reported they had been talking to the FBI and local police.
Neighbors milled Tuesday night behind yellow crime scene tape that stretched in front of the home and across Doral Drive to the front yard of Rodney Lamarca. Lamarca said Almasri told him he was an engineer.
Lamaraca said the FBI had searched the home about two weeks ago. He did not know if that had been the agency's first visit.
''Now they are back like gangbusters,'' Lamarca said. ``They must have found something.''
Lamarca said homeowner association president Dave Remsen told him FBI agents had said they removed a computer and disks. Remsen told him FBI agents said the family packed up so quickly that food was left on the table.
Lamarca said last week he saw the FBI use tools to unlock a car that had been sitting in the garage. ''I didn't know it was there,'' Lamarca said.
Martha Ruth said the Almasri family bought the house about two years ago and came in the summer, telling her they were taking a vacation from their home in Saudi Arabia.
''They introduced themselves to me and they were very friendly neighbors,'' said Ruth, a retired private-duty nurse. ``I didn't even know their last name.''
Ruth said she was told the couple's son, Turki, 22, was attending one of the three flight schools at the nearby Lantana airport. Palm Beach Flight Training owner Marian Smith said Turki had not trained there.
Kemper Aviation manager David Allison said he would not have access to records until the morning. Officials at Chandelle Aviation said they would check Tuesday night but did not call back.
Owen Gassaway, Jr., who runs the commercial operation at the Lantana airport, said he keeps photographs and names of all suspected terrorists that the FBI has asked airports and flight schools to monitor.
He said he checked them Tuesday night and ``nothing matched.''
Michigan records show Mohamad Almasri as the registered agent for two corporations based in Dearborn, Mich. The Detroit suburb has the largest Arab-American population in the United States, according to the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League.
A Mohamad Almasri contacted in Dearborn said he is not the Florida Almasri and that he is not connectedto the Dearborn corporations.
What I can't understand is why they needed biohazard suits.
Didn't the FBI tell us the anthrax came from a domestic terrorist??
I still think so. Our friendly neighborhood radical Islamist terrorists don't pull such silly, juvenile (and ultimately, harmless) pranks like the silly Anthrax "attacks."
When they do something, it's done with style, it's well-planned, and it is much more effective.
If and when they ever take it into their heads to stage a "bio-attack," I think thousands will die, not just four or five.
1. Who paid the rent/mortgage on the place for the last year? Did the dishes just sit there for a year and newspapers collect in the front yard since Sept 01? Further if they had a car, they probably had a drivers license and it sounds like 2 kids in local schools.
2. Why is the FBI making the connection now or in the last 2 weeks (took PC out 2 weeks ago)? My guess its related to either the raid on the UK mosque about a week ago or to information coming from the raid on the latest doctor's house in Pakistan about 3 weeks ago. There was a reference to his sons' having lived in Florida but the articles at the time gave no further specifics.
3. If they were tipped off on Sept. 9 and fled, then tip may have come by electronic communication from Afgh/Pak, Hamburg or directly from the hijackers. Does anyone know when and from where the anthrax was mailed?
The neighbors called the FBI hotline with their suspicions, which seem obvious and very well-founded, within a few days of 9/11/01.
For sixteen months, nothing happens.
Finally, the FBI swoops down and busts the house on 1/21/03.
This chronology raises two questions:
1. Is the FBI finally responding to the hotline tip? If so, what in heaven's name took them so long?
2. Or are they responding to some new evidence, otherwise obtained? In which case, why did they ignore the hotline call?
After all, a residence occupied by an Arab family, with a son involved in flight training at Lantana, hastily vacated on 9/9/01 and left unoccupied for sixteen months is an inviting investigative target.
In other words, this raid is just as suspicions as the long-delayed combing over of the nearby AMI building -- almost a year after it was sealed.
"Lamaraca said the FBI had searched the home about two weeks ago."
But only two weeks ago...
And they hurried right over (16 months later.)
What local papers??
Do you have a link??
This is the first I have heard of this!!
Perhaps waiting to see who might come to recover whatever was buried?
Thanks Aristeides for the information. I learned something new today. That is a very good question you posed. Maybe it's a Saudi-Egyptian family? Or....