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Box cutters found in carry-on bag for flight from Puerto Rico to Boston

One man is arrested after airport security screeners discover weapons and other suspicious items. A possible motive is unclear.

May 19, 2010|By Richard A. Serrano | Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — A man attempting to board a flight from Puerto Rico to Boston was arrested with a carry-on bag stocked with four box cutters, a switchblade knife, a stun gun and information about New York City, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

The man, identified as 59-year-old Jose Pol of Rhode Island, was stopped Tuesday at an airport security checkpoint after the screening of a carry-on bag led to a physical search that turned up the dangerous items, authorities said. He also carried pepper spray, two lighters, matches, scissors, a flight simulation program and a wire device that sets off an electric charge, authorities said.

Pol was arrested and charged with attempting to carry dangerous weapons aboard Jet Blue Flight 860, which was about to depart from Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

"We're still looking into his motive, still determining if he has any ties to any specific terrorist organization," said a government source who has been briefed on the arrest but who was not authorized to discuss it. Terrorism, he said, "is not ruled out."

A second government official said it appeared "highly unlikely" that Pol had direct connections to a radical Muslim organization. He added that investigators were trying to determine whether Pol suffers from a military service disability.

Authorities are checking Pol's military status and whether he is a U.S. citizen.

Pol's attorney, Joannie Plaza-Martinez, said he would plead not guilty. She declined to discuss why he allegedly tried to board the plane with the bag, saying, "I cannot explain it to you. I can't at this time."

FBI Special Agent Antonio Vargas said in an affidavit filed in a Puerto Rico court that Pol was in line to pass through a Transportation Security Authority checkpoint around 12:15 p.m. He was traveling with two pieces of luggage and placed them both on the X-ray machine, Vargas said.

One bag contained a laptop computer. The other bag prompted an alert from the x-ray machine.

"The TSA officer screening the luggage noticed some irregularities in the luggage and sent Pol for a secondary search," Vargas said.

The secondary search, done by hand, turned up the dangerous items, Vargas said. Pol was taken voluntarily to a TSA security office near the checkpoint and waited there until FBI agents arrived. He immediately asked for a lawyer and was taken into custody.

"There was no confusion. He was pretty calm," said Lymarie V. Llovet-Ayala, a spokeswoman at the U.S. attorney's office in Puerto Rico. "He just requested a lawyer."

If convicted, Pol would face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

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