NEWARK – A former employee of a U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers got their visas admitted Tuesday that he took money and gifts to provide fraudulent visas to foreigners.
Abdulla Noman had no connection to any of the hijackers, 15 of whom got visas legally through the consulate in Jeddah, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker said.
"There's no evidence whatever linking him to terrorism," Vilker said.
Noman pleaded guilty to bribery on Tuesday. About 50 to 100 visas were improperly issued by Noman from September 1996 until last November, when he was arrested in Las Vegas while accompanying a trade delegation from the Mideast, Vilker said.
Noman, 54, a Yemeni citizen, said he got bribes worth thousands of dollars for making it appear foreigners were legitimate members of trade delegations to the United States.
"They would come in with everybody else and then disappear," Vilker said.
Vilker acknowledged that while no links to terrorism have been uncovered, officials have not yet been able to locate all the people who obtained visas through Noman.
As part of a plea bargain, Noman has agreed to cooperate with authorities. "He has no information about anything related to Sept. 11," Noman attorney Stanley L. Cohen said.
Noman had worked at the consulate since November 1985, and authorities suspect he began the visa scheme soon afterward, Vilker said.
Visa procedures at the Jeddah consulate, and others, have changed since Sept. 11, Vilker said. Before, visas could be obtained through a travel agency; now, applicants must appear for an interview at a consulate, he said.
Noman faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced Sept. 4. The actual term, however, would be about 2 years without parole, based on federal guidelines.
He would be deported after serving his term, Vilker said.