Men charged in US cell phone case post bail

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August 23, 2006 04:01
1 minute read.

 
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Three Palestinian-American men facing federal conspiracy and money laundering charges after buying large numbers of prepaid cell phones posted bail and said they planned to fly home. "We're glad we're out. We're innocent and we're gonna try to clear our names," one of the men, Louai Othman, 23, told The Bay City Times on Tuesday after the trio left US District Court in Bay City. Othman, his brother Adham Othman, 21, and their cousin Maruan Muhareb, 18, all of Mesquite, Texas, had been jailed since August 11, when they were arrested after buying dozens of cell phones at a Wal-Mart store in Caro, 129 kilometers north of Detroit. Family members and supporters raised $30,000 to free the men, who had been held at the Saginaw County Jail with bail set at $10,000 each. Under conditions set Friday by US Magistrate Judge Charles Binder, the men had to surrender their passports. They will be subject to a curfew and will have to wear an electronic tether. The men will have an evidentiary hearing in Bay City in the next few weeks, said their attorney, Nabih Ayad. The men were arraigned on the federal charges August 16, the same day a Tuscola County judge dismissed state terrorism charges against them at the request of the county prosecutor. They trio had been accused of collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts. Ayad said his clients are victims of ethnic profiling. Tuscola County authorities said they were alarmed not only by the approximately 1,000 cell phones allegedly found in their van, but also by images of the Mackinac Bridge on their digital camera, which led to the surveillance charge. But the FBI and state police later said there was no imminent threat to the 5-mile (8-kilometer)-long span linking Michigan's two peninsulas and no information linking the Othmans and Muhareb to known terrorist groups. The federal complaint alleges the men defrauded consumers, TracFone Wireless Inc. and Nokia Corp. by buying the prepaid phones and removing TracFone's proprietary software, making it possible to use the handsets with any cellular provider.

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