- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Federal officials charged a Pakistani citizen with immigration violations and said yesterday that the man had been detained last month after being spotted videotaping downtown skyscrapers.

Kamran Akhtar was arrested July 20 after being taken in for questioning by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Anthony Maglione. Charges against Mr. Akhtar were contained in indictments unsealed in federal court yesterday.

Mr. Akhtar, 36, is charged with violating federal immigration and naturalization laws and making a false statement, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert.

U.S. District Judge Carl Horn ordered Mr. Akhtar to be held in federal custody at a brief hearing yesterday morning in federal court. He had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He was being held yesterday at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrell Stephens, Mr. Akhtar told Officer Maglione at the time of his arrest that he was making videotapes for family members.

“This is one that will require more investigation, to determine just what he was doing with these tapes,” Chief Stephens said.

Mayor Pat McCrory said Charlotte residents and workers in the city’s busy financial district, which is home to the headquarters of two of the nation’s top five banks, should not alter their routine.

“People working in the center city should continue to go to work and go on with their everyday actions,” Mr. McCrory said.

A federal affidavit unsealed yesterday said a review of the tape in Mr. Akhtar’s camera and others in his possession showed videos of the downtown Wachovia Bank and Bank of America headquarters buildings. Calls to Bank of America and Wachovia were not returned.

There also were pictures from other major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas. According to an affidavit by John Scott Sherrill, a federal immigration agent, Mr. Akhtar’s videotapes showed what appeared to be the Mansfield Dam in Austin and public-transportation systems in several cities.

Officer Maglione said Mr. Akhtar behaved suspiciously when the officer approached to ask him what he was doing as he was videotaping about noon on a weekday.

The officer described Mr. Akhtar’s actions as “evasive” and said the suspect walked away when he tried to approach.

Mr. Akhtar’s “statements were all over the place, from taking these videos for his brother to visiting around town,” Officer Maglione said. “He said he had to hurry up and get back to the bus station” even though he was headed away from the downtown bus terminal.

Chief Stephens said police did not publicize the arrest while they tried to determine whether Mr. Akhtar was simply a tourist.

According to court documents, Mr. Akhtar was asked about his immigration status and purportedly said he had a “green card” that his wife had obtained for him in 1997. A review of his immigration file indicated that he had no green card, which signifies permanent-residence status, and was in the country illegally. He had applied for political asylum in 1992 and had been denied in 1997.

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