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Pilot in ID Fraud Case Is Indicted

January 08, 2002|RICH CONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Middle Eastern pilot being held in Arizona for alleged identity fraud violations that came to light in the probe of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks has been indicted in Los Angeles on two additional charges.

Malek Mohamed Seif, also known as Malek Mohamed Abdallah, was indicted Thursday by a Los Angeles federal grand jury for allegedly lying to the Immigration and Naturalization Service about his background to obtain political asylum in 1998, a spokesman for the Phoenix U.S. attorney's office said Monday.

The new charges were filed in California because the asylum paperwork was filed here.

Seif, 36, already faced dozens of charges of making false statements to obtain a Social Security card and engaging in mail and financial fraud.

The Djibouti national has pleaded not guilty to the Arizona charges. His attorney, Tom Hoidal, said Monday that he expects his client to contest the California charges as well.

The new indictment alleges Seif falsely claimed he was a Somali, fled persecution in his homeland and lived in a Kenya refugee camp for several years. In fact, he traveled to and from the U.S., trained as a pilot and worked in Arizona, according to the charges.

Hoidal said the asylum application was signed by a document preparer, and it is unclear what information provided the INS actually came from Seif.

Seif has been behind bars since late October, when he was arrested after agreeing to return to Phoenix from Europe. He left the United States shortly before Sept. 11.

Seif has not been accused of involvement in terrorism. But he has acknowledged knowing one of the men suspected of hijacking planes on Sept. 11, as well as a man suspected of training some of the attackers.

Trial is set for later this month in Phoenix on the false identity case. It is not clear whether the new case will be heard in Los Angeles or consolidated into the Arizona case.

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