A Djibouti pilot jailed in Arizona after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of Social Security fraud and lying on a political asylum application.
Under a plea agreement, Malek Mohammed Seif, 36, would voluntarily leave the country if a federal judge approves the deal at a sentencing hearing April 22.
Seif, who has been detained in Phoenix since October, was not charged with involvement in the East Coast attacks. But he caught investigators' attention because of his acquaintance with Hani Hanjour, who is suspected of having steered American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
In addition, Seif, also known as Malek Mohammed Abdallah, trained at the same Phoenix-area flight school as Lotfi Raissi, who was detained in England for five months during a global anti-terrorism probe. Raissi, once accused of helping train some of the hijackers, was released on bail this month when prosecutors failed to produce hard evidence linking him to the terrorist attacks.
Seif, a French citizen who left Arizona shortly before the attacks, was coaxed by the FBI to voluntarily return in October. He was arrested, hours after his arrival in Phoenix, for alleged identity fraud.
Dozens of additional charges were later added, including filing false claims of political persecution to obtain asylum.
Under a plea agreement, Seif pleaded guilty Tuesday to the two felony violations and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He has already provided information to investigators, according to his attorney, Thomas Hoidal. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to discuss the value of that information.