By Ivan Pereira
A third Guyanese suspect was sentenced to life in prison last Thursday in the failed 2007 plot to blow up fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn said.
Russel Defreitas, 67, will be spending the rest of his life behind bars for his part in the conspiracy to attack the Queens fuel tanks and pipeline leading to the airport as part of a major terrorist act against New York, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said. Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, was the mastermind behind the plot that was stopped by the FBI, according to the U.S. attorney.
“Russell Defreitas plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9/11,” Lynch said in a statement. “But law enforcement detected and thwarted the plot, saving lives. Now our courts have dispensed justice by handing out the life sentence that Defreitas richly deserves.”
Defreitas worked as a cargo handler at JFK and in 2006 and 2007 recruited Abdul Kadir, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the conspiracy, and others to blow up the pipeline, the U.S. attorney said. He made several trips to Guyana and Trinidad, where he and Kadir would show video surveillance of the airport to other conspirators, according to Lynch.
Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese parliament, who was a trained engineer with connections to militant groups in Iran and Venezuela, provided funding and links to people with terrorist experience, Lynch said.
Their secret plans did not go unnoticed, however, as federal agents had an informant who wore a wire and recorded all of their conversations.
“If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It’s like you can kill the man twice,” Defreitas told the informant, according to the criminal complaint, in a reference to the late President John F. Kennedy.
On June 7, Defreitas, Kadir, Abdel Nur and Kareem Ibrahim were all arrested in the conspiracy. Nur ï»¿pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists before his trial and was sentenced in January to 15 years in prison, the U.S. attorney said.
A federal jury convicted Defreitas and Kadir in July following a nine-week trial.
Ibrahim is awaiting his trial for his criminal charges, the U.S. attorney said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.