The 19-year-old in the leather trench coat made his big mistake when he fumbled through a briefcase full of cash at a small, security-conscious Virginia airport Saturday afternoon.
Trying to buy a one-way ticket to Philadelphia, robbery suspect Sadiyq Abdullah Muhammed, also known as Tony Bedford, already stood out at the Newport News-Williamsburg Airport with his flashy coat and gold chains.
A ticket agent became suspicious after a request for identification led the young man to fish through a briefcase stuffed with $100 bills, airport police said yesterday, explaining how tightened security since the Persian Gulf War helped net their biggest arrest in years.
When the airport police ran a security check, they discovered that the man was wanted on charges stemming from eight armed robberies in the Baltimore area.
Baltimore County detectives are to appear this morning in a Newport News courtroom to seek the suspect's extradition to Maryland.
He has been charged in arrest warrants with attempted murder, armed robbery and attempted robbery in eight of the dozens of so-called "shotgun" gang holdups that have terrorized Baltimore-area businesses in recent months.
A suspect in five city cases, he also is charged with three in Baltimore County -- including the Feb. 28 robbery of the Pikesville Holiday Inn on Reisterstown Road in which an assistant manager was shot and seriously wounded.
He also was charged in Baltimore County with a robbery attempt less than a half-hour earlier at Imperial Pontiac-Nissan in the 1700 block of Woodlawn Drive, and a Feb. 21 holdup at the Food Place supermarket in the 8500 block of Liberty Road.
The Baltimore cases include two armed robberies at the Hardee's in the 6600 block of Belair Road and holdups at the Plaza MiniMart in the 5500 block of Sinclair Lane, Valu Food in the 4200 block of Frankford Avenue and a Shoe City store in the 5600 block of The Alameda.
Mr. Muhammed was believed to have been in Newport News visiting friends, according to airport police Officer Rocky Downey, who made the arrest.
Officer Downey said he apprehended the suspect without incident and discovered $3,555 in the briefcase. When asked why he was carrying so much money in loose cash, the suspect said he had just closed his bank account and was buying a $5,000 ring, Officer Downey said.
"He was very cool and casual about the whole thing," the 41-year-old officer said. "If anything, he was a little too calm. [That's] what made me uneasy."
When he realized the airport police knew he was wanted in Baltimore, the young man became evasive and refused to answer more questions about the ring or where he lived, Officer Downey said.
The airport's drug-sniffing dog "hit on the briefcase" full of money, indicating either it or the money had come in contact with drugs, Officer Downey said. The briefcase was sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the suspect was taken to the city jail, where he was being held without bond.
Officer Downey credited stricter airline security regulations since the Persion Gulf war for the capture. Although Mr. Muhammed stuck out with his flashy clothes, Officer Downey said, he easily would have boarded a plane for Philadelphia if airlines didn't require photo identification to buy one-way tickets.
When an American Eagle airline ticket agent asked for identification, the suspect moved over to the United Airlines counter -- only to find he still needed identification. He was pretending to fish around for identification, Officer Downey said, when the second agent spotted the money.
Baltimore County police are still searching for other members of the robbery bands, which they believe are under the direction of one person. The holdups typically involve groups armed with shotguns and semiautomatic handguns.