- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

NORFOLK (AP) An investigation into a reputed scheme to obtain fraudulent student visas turned up a student Federal Aviation Administration flight manual, a hand-drawn diagram of a plane striking one of the World Trade Center towers and a datebook with a lone entry: September 11, according to court documents.

Papers the FBI filed to justify additional search warrants said authorities also seized from the same location in Virginia photos of men posing outside and inside the trade center, a postcard with an aerial view of the Pentagon and a book identifying commercial airliners.

The materials were seized on or about Dec. 7, when a search warrant issued in the Eastern District of Virginia authorized a search of a location used by one of the students reputedly involved in the scheme, according to the affidavit filed this week in federal court in Norfolk.

The document did not give an address or other details about the location. An FBI spokesman declined to comment yesterday. The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, citing sources it did not identify, reported that the location was a home in Northern Virginia.

The newspaper also reported that another suspect, who lived in Norfolk, had in his car a CD-ROM with the words "flight school." A search warrant filed Wednesday in federal court indicated that computer disks and equipment were among the items found in the suspect's car but did not give specifics.

The court documents were filed in connection with the arrests of suspects in what prosecutors called a nationwide ring that used stand-ins to fraudulently take English-language proficiency exams for 130 foreign students.

Raids carried out Tuesday in 13 states led to 58 arrests, including four in southeastern Virginia, most involving students accused of paying others to take the exam for them. Many colleges and universities require the test as proof that foreign students are complying with the terms of their visas.

The FBI and other agencies were investigating whether any of the individuals had ties to the terrorist attacks or connections to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Among the other items seized in December were phone listings containing locations of oil refineries; a datebook that contained the September 11 entry and the words "Trackd the World Trade Center or the Pentagon Trackd for the Plaen"; and videos titled "Incredible Air Disasters" and "Incredible Water Disasters." It wasn't clear whether the September 11 entry or the drawing of the plane hitting the building were made before or after the attacks.

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said more arrests are expected in the student-visa scheme. The case is being handled in New Jersey because the proficiency test is run by a Princeton firm.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie of New Jersey said the arrests were part of a strategy to capture potential domestic terrorists before they could strike, but would not say if the case uncovered any links to terrorism.

Neither his office nor the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia would comment on what was found in the searches.


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