A jeweler, apparently seeking revenge against former business associates, went on trial on Friday for falsely reporting that five Arabs were plotting to bomb New York subways on the US Independence Day holiday last year.
The hoax by Rimon Alkatri, a native of Syria living in Brooklyn, resulted in "an intensive and widespread investigation" that stretched to the Middle East and involved the men he had named, Assistant District Attorney Barry Ginsberg said.
Alkatri told investigators that the plotters were five Syrians working in the jewelry business, Ginsberg said. The names turned out to be those of five business associates with whom Alkatri had disputes, he said.
Alkatri, 35, is charged with falsely reporting an incident in the first degree, punishable by up to seven years in prison if he is convicted. He also faces deportation to Syria, a move his lawyer says could be fatal since he is Jewish.
Alkatri's lawyer, Michael Soshnick, said his client admitted making the calls but did not know the information was false.
Ginsberg told the jury that Alkatri called the New York City SAFE hot line around 8:15pm on May 30 last year with a prepaid cellphone that he later threw away, and intentionally used words that would cause police to act -- Arabs, Allah Akbar, terrorists and suicide bombers.
The prosecutor said Alkatri also lied about who he was, claiming to be Jose Rodriguez from Israel.
In shaky and inexact English, Alkatri told the officer that two men he named and three others "try to do something, you know, that try to suicide bombs and train or something. I don't know where exactly."
Within 48 hours after the report, Ginsberg told the jury, police had bomb sniffing dogs going through the men's homes. None of the searches in any of the homes turned up anything, he said.
As the US Independence Day holiday approached on July 4, it was became clear that the report was false, police said at the time. They said the common thread that emerged from the investigation was Alkatri.
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