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U.S. bomb threat suspect held in Portugal

Portuguese police arrested a U.S. fugitive who allegedly phoned bomb threats to extort money from American banks, authorities said Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Portuguese police have arrested a U.S. fugitive who allegedly phoned bomb threats to extort money from American banks and stole from multinational companies by hacking into their internal computer networks, authorities said Friday.

Allan Guedes Sharif, 29, who is wanted by U.S. federal authorities on extortion charges, is in custody awaiting trial, Portuguese detective Pedro Felicio said.

Sharif was detained Wednesday at a luxury condominium where he was living in Viseu, a city about 120 miles north of Lisbon, Felicio told The Associated Press.

Sharif, whose mother is Portuguese, grew up in the New York area, but is believed to have fled to Portugal after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on bank fraud charges in 2005.

Sharif, who has dual U.S.-Portuguese citizenship, faces charges in New York and Miami, but Felicio said he would stand trial first in Portugal.

Police suspect most of Sharif's victims were companies in the U.S., but he also targeted companies in Canada, Britain and Switzerland, Felicio said.

Sharif's alleged fraud schemes are believed to have netted "large quantities" of money, but the exact amount is not known.

Police seized 15 laptop computers and 53 cellular phones during the arrest.

Portuguese detectives have been investigating Sharif since September, Felicio said.

He appeared before a judge Thursday and was ordered to be held in custody while he awaits trial, which is not expected to begin before the end of the year.

If convicted, Sharif faces up to 15 years in jail for each crime, but the maximum prison sentence in Portugal is 25 years.

Felicio said he did not know whether U.S. authorities had issued an extradition request.

In January, a U.S. District Court in Manhattan indicted Sharif on charges he made threats by telephone to Deutsche Bank, the Bank of New York, Bank of America and Societe Generale.

In November, federal authorities in Miami said they had asked that Sharif be arrested on charges that he made international phone calls earlier that year threatening to blow up a Miami Beach bank unless workers there gave an alleged accomplice money.

In the U.S., Sharif faces a possible life prison sentence if convicted of a charge of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction by making bomb threats. Three other counts charging him with threatening acts of terrorism across national boundaries each carry 10-year prison sentences.