NEW YORK – A jeweler was convicted Thursday of falsely reporting that five Arab men were plotting to bomb New York subways on July 4, 2006, a hoax apparently meant to cause trouble for former business associates.
The jury in Manhattan's state Supreme Court deliberated four days before convicting Rimon Alkatri, 35, of falsely reporting an incident in the first degree. He faces up to seven years in prison.
Alkatri was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. A native of Syria, he also faces deportation as a convicted felon. His lawyer, Michael L. Soshnick, argued that a return home could be fatal because he is Jewish.
Alkatri was accused of calling police terrorism tips line on May 30, 2006. Using a prepaid cell phone that he threw away, Alkatri told police about a phony bomb plot set for July 4 and lied that he was Jose Rodriguez from Israel, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Alkatri used words that he knew would get police to act: Arabs, Allah Akbar, terrorists and homicide bombers.
Alkatri warned that five Arabs were plotting to bomb New York subways on Independence Day, launching a wide-reaching investigation, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the hoax was an apparent bid for revenge against five former business associates. They said the false report had the desired effect on Alkatri's targets: police investigated the men and searched their homes with bomb-sniffing dogs. Nothing suspicious was ever found.
As July 4 approached and it became clear the report was false, police said at the time, investigators learned that the common thread among all the men was Alkatri.
Soshnick said his client admitted making the call but did not know the information was false. He said Alkatri saw things that made him suspicious, and when he did not get straight answers from the men, he called police.
"He saw something and said something, like they ask you to," the lawyer said.