August 16, 2006

No terror charges, but Arab-Americans in scheme: US

DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan prosecutors dismissed
terrorism-related charges against three Arab-Americans on
Wednesday, but soon afterward the FBI accused them of a
phone-selling scheme that could land them in prison for 25

The three U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent from the
Dallas area -- brothers Adham and Louai Othman and cousin Awad
Muhareb -- were each charged in federal court in Bay City,
Michigan, with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and
money laundering.

Their case and another dismissed this week in Ohio against
two Arab-Americans buying cell phones for resale have raised
the ire of the Arab-American community, with complaints that
local authorities are overzealous in suspecting Arabs of

In the Michigan case, the men appeared in state court in
Caro where prosecutors dismissed charges of support for
terrorism and surveillance of a vulnerable target -- the
Mackinac Bridge -- which the FBI had previously said had no

But the FBI said the men were engaged in a fraudulent
scheme where they traveled the country buying Nokia cell phones
equipped with software to install a prepaid calling card. But
the software was removed, the FBI said, and the phones were
eventually resold overseas.

The three men were ordered detained, pending a hearing on

(Additional reporting by Jui Chakravorty)