- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

A Falls Church man who helped two hijackers fraudulently obtain identification cards also misled FBI agents into believing other terrorist attacks were imminent, a prosecutor said yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
The extent to which Luis Martinez-Flores, 28, misled investigators emerged during a hearing in which a federal judge criticized Virginia for allowing a loophole that seven hijackers used to obtain fake ID cards.
Mr. Martinez-Flores pleaded guilty to document fraud for signing forms falsely certifying that Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar, hijackers on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon, were Virginia residents. The hijackers paid him $100.
At yesterday's plea hearing, a prosecutor said Mr. Martinez-Flores wildly exaggerated his connections to Hanjour and some of the other hijackers.
In the days immediately after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Martinez-Flores told the FBI he had extensive conversations with Hanjour and that Hanjour had discussed attacks on Federal Reserve banks, stadiums and other large buildings on the East Coast.
Mr. Martinez-Flores told the FBI he was under the impression that these attacks would be imminent and might involve the use of armored vehicles, according to prosecutor John Morton.
It turned out, though, that Mr. Martinez-Flores made up the whole story and that he had only met the two hijackers on the day he helped them obtain the ID cards from the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
"Quite obviously, a great deal of government time was spent addressing [Mr. Martinez- Flores] claims," Mr. Morton said.
Mr. Morton said several Eastern states were alerted to the possibility of attacks based on Mr. Martinez-Flores' false statements. Federal Reserve banks in Richmond and Atlanta were put on alert in the days following the attacks.
Mr. Martinez-Flores said through an interpreter that his lies were "a grave mistake on my part." Asked by U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III why he lied, Mr. Martinez-Flores said, "I was terrified and I didn't think of where this was going to end."
Mr. Morton said polygraph tests and independent investigation led the government to conclude Mr. Martinez-Flores was lying. Mr. Morton said it appears that Mr. Martinez-Flores lied "to make himself appear more important to the government."
Mr. Martinez-Flores' attorney, Jeffrey Zimmerman, said his client did not intend to hinder the government's investigation.
"Anybody who found themselves in Mr. Martinez's situation would make statements they regret," Mr. Zimmerman said.
It does appear that the federal government paid significant attention to Mr. Martinez- Flores' misstatements. El Salvador's national police director said he had been told that Mr. Martinez-Flores may have moved with the terrorists in New York, Boston or Florida.
Also, Mr. Martinez-Flores was one of 21 names on an FBI list distributed to banks seeking information about the terrorists' financial transactions. Nineteen of the other 20 names on the list were the hijackers themselves.
Judge Ellis suggested that the FBI should have doubted Mr. Martinez-Flores' story about detailed conversations with Hanjour, given that he speaks little English and there's no evidence that Hanjour or the other hijackers were fluent in Spanish.
Judge Ellis also criticized Virginia for allowing the loophole that allowed applicants to obtain ID cards by submitting sworn statements without proof of residency or identity.
Judge Ellis said there was ample evidence that the process had been abused well before the terrorists exploited the loophole. An affidavit filed in February in federal court documented that thousands of illegal aliens had abused the process. The DMV changed its rules Sept. 21.
Mr. Martinez-Flores, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is one of four persons who have pleaded guilty to document fraud in connection with the September 11 investigation. All await sentencing. Mr. Martinez-Flores will be sentenced Feb. 8.

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