LAS VEGAS – A Saudi citizen has been arrested in an FBI sting operation for allegedly accepting bribes to issue American visas to Saudi nationals, authorities said Sunday.
Abdulla Noman, who works for the U.S. Department of Commerce issuing visas at the American Consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, was arrested Thursday in a Las Vegas Strip hotel room, authorities said. He is being held in federal custody.
The FBI is not specifically probing ties between Noman and terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, but they are not ruling out a connection, said Daron Borst, a spokesman for the Las Vegas FBI.
"There is no indication that this man's activities are connected to the attacks," Borst said. "If that information would come up during the course of the investigation obviously we would follow it, but it's not something that has become apparent yet."
Fifteen of the 19 suicide hijackers who participated in the terrorist attacks came to the United States from Saudi Arabia. All 15 had obtained American visas.
A federal criminal complaint filed against Noman in New Jersey does not mention the attacks. The complaint states that an informant cooperating with a New Jersey-based FBI investigation told agents that he paid Noman more than $3,000 in 1998 for his "assistance in obtaining an American visa under false pretenses."
FBI Agents in the Newark, N.J., field office tracked Noman to Nevada last week, Borst said.
In a sting organized with the Las Vegas office, the FBI said it monitored Noman in a meeting Thursday night with the same informant, accepting a bribe in exchange for a visa.
"It was an undercover operation," Borst said. "He [Noman] was in town on business and we took him down."
At Noman's initial appearance in federal court on Friday, prosecutors termed him a flight risk. Noman's detention hearing is scheduled for this week.
Borst said the U.S. government commonly employs foreign nationals to perform a variety of overseas functions, including issuing visas granting a passport holder permission to enter a foreign country.