A resident of Flushing and another of Whitestone were recently arrested on charges of terrorism with the intent to bomb Manhattan’s largest synagogue, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
In the DA’s complaint, Detective Steven Pinkall, from the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, states that he was involved in a seven month-long investigation into the suspects, alongside an undercover operative referred to as “UC 242.” During this time, Pinkall claimed that Ahmed Ferhani from Flushing and Mohamed Mamdouh of Whitestone made their goals of terrorism clearer and more concrete.
Ferhani apparently told UC 242 that he was interested in purchasing weapons, both to carry out the attacks and to sell to fund operations. The operative told Ferhani that he could arrange a meeting with a weapons dealer, another undercover officer.
On May 11, Ferhani and UC 242 met with the undercover dealer to purchase weapons, including semi-automatic pistols, ammunition and a non-functional grenade, according to the document. After he stored the items, officers arrested him and Mamdouh, who was a few blocks away.
Both are charged with conspiracy in the second degree as a crime of terrorism, conspiracy in the second degree as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree as a crime of terrorism and attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism, according to the document.
The charge of conspiracy as a terrorism crime is an A-1 felony, leveling a maximum sentence of life in prison with no parole.
The terrorism charges are part of New York State’s anti-terror laws, enacted less than a week after the 9/11 attacks.
The investigation alleges that in their discussions, Ferhani confided in UC 242, describing his goals to “bomb synagogues and kill Jews.” The suspects also allegedly discussed bombing a church in Queens.
Ferhani eventually introduced UC 242 to Mamdouh, described as a conspirator in the complaint, who would “love to” bomb a synagogue.
In a conversation in April, Ferhani disclosed to the operative that he would target the largest synagogue in Manhattan and enter dressed as a Jewish worshipper to pray and leave behind an explosive.
In a statement, Aaron Mysliwiec, Mamdouh’s attorney, reminded that his client is “presumed innocent” until found guilty. Mysliwiec noted that Mamdouh grew up in
Queens and went to Flushing High School.
“We’ve all seen cases where the government begins with sensationalized allegations, but as the real evidence comes to light, those allegations turn out to be false and cannot be proven,” said Mysliwiec.
Stephen Pokart, Ferhani’s lawyer, did not return The Courier’s call.
A spokesperson for the FBI said that the bureau would not be involved in the case, but declined to comment further.
Ani Wazeri, who lives on Mamdouh’s block, moved into the neighborhood from Seattle just two months ago.
“It’s very unfortunate, we live in very uncertain times and scary times; it is what it is,” said Wazeri.
Ercole Santoro, another neighbor, has never heard of anything like this happening in the area in his 14 years there and called the neighborhood safe.
Rabbi Martin Cooper works at the Garden Jewish Center around the corner from Mamdouh’s home in Whitestone.
“[The] police have done their job. It’s unfortunate that there are anti-Semites or anti-anything,” said Cooper.