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Antigua Alleges 'Serial Forgery' by Sniper Suspect

November 09, 2002|Mark Fineman | Times Staff Writer

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua — Nearly 18 months before the national shooting spree, sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad smuggled his teenage companion into America from this remote Caribbean island with forged documents identifying the boy as his firstborn son, according to Antiguan government documents and official accounts here Friday.

Newly uncovered immigration documents have convinced Antiguan authorities that Muhammad illegally brought the Jamaican-born Lee Boyd Malvo into America along with three of his children in May 2001. Antigua's top investigator of Muhammad's 14-month stay here now says that trip culminated more than a year of "serial document forgery" by Muhammad that compromised America's borders and Antigua's sovereignty.

Detailing the investigation's preliminary findings, task force chief John Fuller said Friday that two additional Antiguan passports were issued to foreigners on the basis of documents Muhammad allegedly forged -- documents similar to those Muhammad used to get his own Antiguan passport. One of those foreigners and Muhammad also used similarly forged documents in failed efforts to get a U.S. passport here, Fuller said.

Antiguan investigators turned over Muhammad's and Malvo's immigration documents to the FBI on Wednesday. Those records, which The Times also obtained this week, along with new accounts from key witnesses here, provide the first solid evidence of the origin and character of the relationship between the man and the teenage boy U.S. investigators say terrorized suburban Washington for three weeks last month before they were arrested in suburban Maryland.

Officials speculate that Malvo, now 17, became dependent on the father figure who made his illegal passage to America possible, and that Muhammad sought out Malvo after losing his eldest, teenage son in a bitter custody battle.

Fuller said it was no coincidence that Muhammad used his own son's name to smuggle in Malvo. Before their departure, Muhammad also is suspected of forging documents to smuggle Malvo's mother, Una James, out of Antigua and into the U.S.

"She [James] obviously left with documents provided by John Allen Muhammad, probably to get her the hell out of here because he wanted to have the boy for himself," Fuller said.

Antigua's continuing investigation into the life and times of Muhammad and Malvo in this island nation reveals that Muhammad easily won the confidence of strangers, casting himself as a model single father, while allegedly living a shadowy life as a forger and migrant smuggler who often traveled alone between Antigua and the U.S.

Muhammad apparently befriended even the police who were guarding him at the St. John's police station after he was detained at Antigua's airport on suspicion of trying to smuggle another Jamaican out of the country. Muhammad simply walked out of the station on March 13, 2001, while the police corporal on duty wasn't looking.

Fuller described the Muhammad who lived here as "a charismatic character who easily inveigles his way into a person's good graces

"This man," he added, "had a suitcase of different aliases," beginning with the one he used when he landed on this island thousands of miles from home.

The strange saga began on March 27, 2000, when Muhammad, who was then legally named John Allen Williams, picked up his three children from his ex-wife's home in Tacoma, Wash., promising to return them the next day, according to court documents in Tacoma.

On March 28, however, Muhammad and his two daughters and son landed not at their Tacoma home but at Antigua's V.C. Bird International Airport.

Immigration documents show that Muhammad entered Antigua as Thomas Allen Lee on American Airlines Flight 5502 from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He produced a Wyoming driver's license and a Pennsylvania birth certificate; both documents apparently were forgeries.

For his children -- Taliba, Salina and John A. Williams Jr. -- Muhammad produced forged birth certificates from Illinois, Michigan and Alabama identifying them as Theresa, Lisa and Fred Allen Lee. Muhammad signed all of their immigration arrival cards "Thomas Lee."

Fourteen months later, in handwriting nearly identical to Lee's, John A. Muhammad signed the departure cards for the children under their real names.

Accompanying the four on that flight was a Lindbergh Williams, whose name, birth date and birthplace were identical to those of Muhammad's real son from an earlier marriage, according to the immigration documents.

"I'm absolutely certain that Lindbergh Williams is Malvo," Antigua's Atty. Gen. Gertel Thom, who is coordinating Fuller's investigation, told The Times in an interview this week. "Lee Malvo clearly entered Antigua in 1999, and we have not been able to find any record of Lee Malvo ever leaving the country under his real name."

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