An Astoria cab driver caught on tape asking an undercover agent for enough explosives to blow up a mountain was arrested last week after buying $150 worth of drugs, authorities said.
Sayed Abdul Malike, 43, was charged with possession of a controlled substance and making a false statement to a federal officer at an appearance May 21 in Brooklyn federal court, said James Margolin, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Authorities began investigating Malike after he aroused suspicion by asking a Queens storekeeper for bomb-making tips and by scoping out bridges during a boat tour around Miami, according to the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn.
But he has been criminally charged only for buying Valium from an undercover agent and then lying about the content of his earlier conversations with him, authorities said.
Margolin said the investigation is ongoing and he would not comment on the possibility of any terrorism-related charges being brought against Malike, who was arrested May 20 after meeting the undercover agent near the corner of 21st Street and Broadway in Astoria.
Malike, an immigrant from Afghanistan who works as a taxi driver and lives in Astoria, was granted asylum and is a legal resident of the United States, Margolin said.
A Queens merchant first contacted the FBI after Malike entered his store and asked for information about how to make a bomb, which the storekeeper told him he could provide for a high price, the complaint said.
Three days later Malike traveled by train to Miami for a tourist boat ride, where he asked the captain about the infrastructure of bridges and how close the boat could get to bridges and cruise ships. He also took videotape of several bridges, prompting the captain to report his behavior to the U.S. Coast Guard, the complaint said.
Malike told FBI officials who tracked him down in Miami that he was simply taking tourist pictures, and he was released after they verified his legal immigration status, the complaint said.
Upon his return to New York Malike asked the storekeeper for the information they had previously discussed and was soon introduced to an undercover FBI agent, who recorded his conversations with Malike, the complaint said.
During his first meeting with the agent April 4, Malike was evasive when asked what he wanted to do with the explosives but said he wanted "enough to blow up a mountain," the complaint said. The agent quoted him a price of $5,000 each for C-4 explosives - powerful plastic explosives designed for military use - but Malike said he had to think about how much he needed, according to the complaint.
In their next meeting five days later Malike asked for five bullet-proof vests, night-vision goggles, a camera for the front of his car, 50 sleeping pills and 50 Valium pills, and while he raised the issue of explosives, he said he needed to check with a friend first, the complaint said.
The agent brought a dummy set of explosives to his next two meetings with Malike, who declined to buy them, saying he had yet to obtain the finances and had no place to store them, the complaint said.
But agents arrested him May 20, immediately after his fourth meeting, when he allegedly paid $150 for 100 Valium tablets and 50 placebo sleeping pills, the complaint said.
After his arrest Malike allegedly lied about the content of his recorded conversations with the agent and denied his interest in acquiring explosives, the complaint said.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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