- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

A D.C. day laborer pleaded guilty yesterday to unwittingly helping two of the September 11 hijackers illegally obtain Virginia identification cards.
Herbert Villalobos, 35, admitted that two of the hijackers, Abdulaziz Alomari and Ahmed Alghamdi, paid him $50 to drive them to a Northern Virginia law office, where they fraudulently completed forms used to obtain ID cards from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
At one point, the government accused Villalobos, using the name Oscar Diaz, of falsely certifying on one of those forms that Alomari was a Virginia resident. That charge has been dropped.
Villalobos' attorney, Patrick Anderson, emphasized that his client did not know the hijackers.
"He is such a small cog in this whole thing," Mr. Anderson said after yesterday's plea hearing. "He was approached by two men who gave him the opportunity to make $50. That's it. All he did was lead them to the lawyer's office."
Technically, Villalobos could face up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 1. But Mr. Anderson said the sentencing guidelines call for a lighter sentence, and it is possible Villalobos could be released after sentencing. He has been in jail since his arrest in late September.
Villalobos agreed to testify in any related cases. He is one of four persons charged with helping some of the hijackers fraudulently obtain ID cards. All but one, Luis A. Martinez-Flores, already have struck plea bargains and are awaiting sentencing.
Virginia has since changed its procedures and no longer allows applicants to submit the forms used by Alomari and the other hijackers to obtain ID cards or drivers' licenses.
Mr. Anderson said he always met with his client in person, fearing the government would eavesdrop on phone and mail correspondence. The Justice Department recently changed its rules and allows investigators to eavesdrop on attorneys' conversations with some terrorist suspects.
Villalobos, a native of El Salvador, is a legal permanent resident and does not face deportation proceedings, Mr. Anderson said.

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