Man's arrest in arson threat leads to detention of 5 aliens

Illegal immigrants found living with city resident charged with harassment

September 11, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The arrest of a 36-year-old man in Northwest Baltimore yesterday on charges of threatening to commit arson led to the detention of five illegal immigrants, officials said.

Detectives with the city's Warrant Apprehension Task Force arrested Abderrahim Houti about 8:30 a.m. in his apartment in the 3600 block of Labyrinth Road, officials said. Houti, who emigrated from Morocco and was living legally in the United States, was charged in a warrant with harassing a family and threatening to commit arson in Baltimore County, officials said.

Houti was being held last night at the city's Central Booking and Intake Center, officials said.

While arresting Houti, city and county police detectives on the task force noticed "numerous other individuals of Middle Eastern descent," according to a press release issued by Baltimore police.

"Detectives' suspicions were aroused upon observing that the apartment was scantily furnished and identification could not be produced," the release said.

"In the interest of homeland security," the release stated, detectives sought help from federal authorities, who then took five illegal aliens into custody.

Three of the men came from Pakistan, one from Somalia and the fifth from Afghanistan, officials said. Federal officials said the men were being held last night in lieu of $5,000 bond each pending immigration hearings.

"They just appear to be illegal aliens," said Don Corcetti, district director of the Maryland office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "They do not appear to be engaged or suspected of being engaged in any type of terrorist or other activities."

In addition to Houti, detectives questioned two other men who were in the apartment. They were legal aliens, officials said, and had not been charged last night.

Law enforcement officials said detectives seized a computer with a camera that was likely used to make fake identification. One of the men also appeared to have fake ID cards from at least two states, the officials said.

Neighbors and maintenance workers said FBI agents visited Houti's apartment complex last week, but the agents would not say why they were there.

"They stopped in the office and asked if I saw anyone in this stack of photographs," said Pete Ianuzzi, a maintenance supervisor at the complex. "I told them that one looked familiar. They asked me to give them a call if I saw him."

Several months ago, FBI agents also interviewed Kathleen Bakr and her husband, the couple Houti is accused of harassing in the Baltimore County case. Bakr and her lawyer said FBI agents refused to say why they were investigating. FBI officials declined to comment on Houti yesterday.

The Bakrs and Houti have been involved in several recent court cases, ranging from civil suits to criminal charges. The most recent was a restraining order obtained by Bakr last month to keep Houti from harassing her and her family, court papers show.

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