Mosque officials discuss terror suspects, suggest entrapment
By Hema Easley | May 21, 2009
NEWBURGH, N.Y. - Leaders of a Newburgh mosque said two men suspected of plotting to bomb Jewish temples in Riverdale and shoot down military planes were loosely affiliated with the mosque, and one was on medication for paranoia.
The head imam of the mosque says one of the men arrested was baited into the plot, and he called the arrest entrapment.
Federal agents arrested Newburgh residents James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, and charged them with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Hamin Rashada is the assistant imam at Masjid Al-Ikhlas, where Cromitie and Payen frequented. The name of the mosque translates to "Mosque of Purity and Serenity."
Rashada said Payen suffered from paranoia, was on medication, and had been to the mosque for counseling recently. He was also in the country illegally from Haiti and had faced deportation in the past but was helped by a group of students from a local law college, and apparently hadn't been deported.
He was in jail for five months for something related to his immigration status, Rashada said. Payen was scheduled for another immigration hearing tomorrow at Federal Plaza in New York City, but he's in FBI custody, he said.
Rashada said that when Payen came to the mosque in March, he was apparently homeless, and Rashada assisted him in getting a room in a multi-family home that was also home to several people with criminal backgrounds who were on parole.
He said that in the last few days, Payen had been going around asking people where he could gain access to heavy weapons and a dependable driver. According to Rashada, the people did not help him because they didn't want more legal trouble.
He found all this out when he asked around today and yesterday after hearing of the arrests, he said. He informed the FBI of the information he had gathered last night. He knew none of the information prior to the arrests.