An Iraqi refugee pleaded
guilty Dec. 13 in federal court in Pennsylvania to fraud for allegedly trying
to obtain a license to haul hazardous materials. He became the first of 20
Middle Eastern men indicted in the case to plead guilty.
Alawi Al-Baraa, who
is serving a state prison term for stabbing a man in a bar fight, admitted
to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cindrich that he illegally obtained a
hazmat license in 1999 from Robert Ferrari, a former Pennsylvania Department
of Transportation examiner.
The indictment naming
him and the others created a stir following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
because of the possibility the scheme was linked to terrorism. Federal authorities
have since said none of the suspects has been linked to any terrorist plots.
had a legal Michigan CDL to haul hazmat at one time but lost it because of
driving violations. He admitted paying Ferrari $300 for the Pennsylvania license
in order to get a job at an Erie trucking company.
Ferrari was indicted
by a federal grand jury in October and has also been charged in a separate
investigation by the state Attorney General's office. Al-Baraa faces
between two and eight months in prison when he is sentenced March 15.
Al-Baraa already is
serving a two- to four-year sentence for aggravated assault in Erie. He was
sentenced Nov. 14, 2000.