The purported terrorist threat against a West Los Angeles shopping mall last week turned out to be a fake, authorities said.
Zameer Mohamed, 23, was charged Tuesday in federal court with a single felony count of using a telephone to maliciously make a false threat. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Mohamed, a citizen of Tanzania who lives in Canada, was arrested last Thursday as he crossed from Canada into Montana. He had falsely identified an ex-girlfriend as part of the phony plot, apparently as revenge because she supposedly bilked him out of money, the FBI said.
The attack was to have happened last Thursday. Police made the threat public and for several days increased patrols at several shopping centers, urging people to watch out for suspicious activity.
Caller claimed al-Qaida connection
Authorities allege that Mohamed called the Department of Homeland Security in Washington on April 23, calling himself “Al” and claiming to be a former associate of a terrorist cell linked with al-Qaida.
The caller said two men and two women were going to enter the United States from Canada using false American passports to “conduct an explosive attack on a mall” near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles, according to an FBI affidavit.
The call was traced to a calling card company that determined it came from a hotel in Calgary, Alberta, the affidavit said.
Canadian police interviewed the desk clerk, who said a man later identified as Mohamed had stayed there from April 23-25 and provided a cellular telephone number as a contact, the affidavit said.
Suspect acknowledges phony call
The FBI affidavit said Mohamed was interviewed Monday and acknowledged making the phony call. “He identified the four individuals because they took money from him,” the affidavit said.
“Mohamed stated he never was a member of a terrorist organization and neither were these four individuals,” the affidavit said, adding that Los Angeles was randomly picked as the purported target.
Mohamed was being held in Montana and was to be taken soon to Los Angeles, FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said. He was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents on immigration violations after crossing the border.