MANHATTAN (CN) – A former cargo handler who plotted to blow up JFK International Airport was sentenced Thursday to life in federal prison. Russell Defreitas is the third man sentenced in the plot to blow up the fuel pipeline under the airport.
A federal jury convicted Defreitas and coconspirator Abdul Kadir in July 2010 after a 9-week trial. Kadir was sentenced to life in prison in December. Abdul Nur pleaded guilty before trial, and was sentenced in January to 15 years in prison.
A fourth defendant, Kareem Ibrahim, awaits trial on the same conspiracy charges as Defreitas and Kadir, the U.S. Attorney’s Officer said.
Defreitas is a naturalized U.S. citizen, born in Guyana. Kadir is a former member of the Guyanese parliament.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Defreitas “originated the idea to attack JFK Airport and its fuel tanks and pipelines by drawing on his prior experience working at the airport as a cargo handler. In 2006 and 2007, Defreitas recruited Kadir and others to join the plot during multiple trips to Guyana and Trinidad. Between trips, Defreitas engaged in video surveillance of JFK Airport and transported the footage back to Guyana to show Kadir and their co-conspirators. Kadir, a trained engineer with connections to militant groups in Iran and Venezuela, provided the conspirators with links to individuals with terrorist experience, advice on explosive materials, and a bank account through which to finance the terrorist attack.”
The prosecutors’ statement added: “Defreitas and his fellow plot members attempted to enlist support from prominent international terrorist groups and leaders, including Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat Al Muslimeen, and Adnan El Shukrijumah, an al-Qaeda leader, as well as the Iranian revolutionary leadership. During cross-examination at trial, Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese parliament, admitted that he regularly passed information to Iranian authorities about sensitive topics, including the Guyanese military, and believed himself bound to follow fatwas from Iranian religious leaders.”
Defreitas was convicted of Conspiracy to Attack a Public Transportation System, Conspiracy to Destroy a Building by Fire or Explosive, Conspiracy to Attack Aircraft and Aircraft Materials, Conspiracy to Destroy International Airport Facilities, and Conspiracy to Attack a Mass Transportation Facility.