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FBI Informant in Alleged Plot to Blow up Chicago's Sear Tower Now Operating Store in New Rochelle

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FBI Informant in Alleged Plot to Blow up Chicago's Sear Tower Now Operating Store in New Rochelle

January 09, 2015 - 23:45
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Abbas al-Saidi, 29, owns and operates the New Roc Mini-Mart, a convenience store located at 149 North Avenue in New Rochelle. The corporate name of the business is New Rock Mini Mart & Deli Inc.

Abbas Al-Saidi is also known as Adbas AlSaidi, Abbasa A. Alaidi, Abbas al Saidi, Abbas AlSaidi, Abbas A Alsaidi, Abbes Alsaidi, Abbas Alsadi, and Sam Abbas.

There is a residential address listed for an Abbas al-Saidi at 518 Granfield Avenue Apt. #1 in Bridgeport, CT and two known addresses for al-Saidi in New Rochelle, one at 44 Franklin Avenue and another at 384 North Avenue.

Talk of the Sound reached out to al-Saidi through his cousin who is operating the store while al-Saidi is out of the country, reportedly in his home country of Yemen. A large number of convenience stores in the New Rochelle area are owned and operated by Yemenis.

The New Roc Mini-Mart has become the "go to" place in New Rochelle for untaxed cigarettes ($8 a pack) and "loosies" or individual cigarettes sold for a dollar. Foot traffic is constant and brisk. During three separate visits, with dozens of customers moving quickly in and out of the store (there is no heat in the store), all but one bought anything other than cigarettes. The store clerk sold loose cigarettes while responding to Talk of the Sound efforts to set up an interview with al-Saidi.

The store has attracted a mixed crowd that ranges from city workers including police officers to assorted, unsavory individuals, what one local store owner called "thugs". Al-Saidi's landlord has had enough and is currently in the process of seeking to have him evicted.

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In the two years since the store opened, there has been a shooting a few doors down in which one person was shot in the face.

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There was a stabbing incident in 2013 involving two Monroe College students that school officials believe may have involved a dispute over marijuana sales related to the New Roc Mini-Mart.

In 2013, the New York State Lottery Commission referred al-Saidi to the New York State Attorney General's office for failure to remit over $10,000 from the sales of lottery tickets. A request of a New York State liquor license was denied.

A raid by New Rochelle's Quality of Life Task Force resulted in charges related to tax evasion for selling cigarettes without a New York State tax stamp and various other disturbances in the area around the store.

The store has been the subject of numerous "quality of life" complaints since it opened two years ago.

Through all of this, al-Saidi has let it be known that he is "untouchable" and he can do what he wants in New Rochelle with impunity, sources say.

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Al-Saidi took out a lease on a second store location at 52 Drake Avenue and was working to open the Drake Avenue Deli when the building was destroyed by a massive fire which began in the basement below what would have been the Drake Avenue Deli. One source said that a large number of space heaters were found in the basement, similar to those removed by New Rochelle police during the raid of 384 North Avenue (pictured below) although another source said that the source of the fire was not electrical and was not related to the space heaters. It does appear, however, that al-Saidi may have set up a marijuana grow house at 52 Drake Avenue.

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Al-Saidi then took out a lease for a third store location at 384 North Avenue. That store never opened. He was fined over the summer for building code violations for doing work on that location without a building permit.

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Based on reporting by Talk of the Sound, New Rochelle police raided 384 North Avenue and removed marijuana and "grow house" equipment from the basement of the store. Al-Saidi was living in the basement in an illegal apartment consisting of a bedroom and half-bathroom. The electrical system had been illegally wired to support the grow house. Al-Saidi has since been evicted.

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Al-Saidi's partner in the new store nearly died last April when a TLC-licensed Cadillac Escalade crashed into a wall at the Connor Street exit of the New England Thruway seriously injuring 9 people including the driver, al-Saidi's business partner.

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What is less well-known in New Rochelle is al-Saidi's role in one of the most controversial terrorism cases brought by the Bush Department of Justice under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

Abbas AlSaidiAccording to reporting by Bob Norman, an award-winning investigative journalist, and research by Rory McMahon, a private investigator, both operating out of South Florida, Abbas al-Saidi was the driving force behind what became known as the Liberty City Seven case.

McMahon discussed Abbas al-Saidi with Talk of the Sound at length.

The Liberty City Seven were seven members of a small religious cult operating out of Miami, Florida. They were arrested and charged with various terrorism-related offenses in 2006 including an alleged plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois. After two mistrials, some of the seven were convicted on some of the charges. The group's leader Narseal Batiste was convicted on all four charges.

Liberty City Seven

The Bush administration went to great lengths to promote the arrests of the Liberty City Seven as a major counter-terrorism success.

After the case went to trial, it became apparent that case was largely an outgrowth of an attempt by Abbas al-Saidi, then 22, and Elle Assad, a second paid FBI informant, to game the FBI as a way to make money. Elle Assad was a professional informant known as "The Closer", brought in after the FBI determined that al-Saidi was no longer effective.

McMahon, working for the defense counsel in the case, traced al-Saidi's rise from poor Yemeni immigrant to being flown around the world at taxpayer expense by the U.S. government.

Abbas al-Saidi came to the United States in the mid-nineties when his family relocated from Yemen to Brooklyn, New York. He was 9 years old at the time.

By the time he was 16, al-Saidi was a paid narcotics informant working for the New York City Police Department. Al-Saidi later became a counter-terrorism informant for the NYPD. He was given an apartment and paid $40 a day. By 2005, al-Saidi had been handed off by NYPD to the FBI which paid al-Saidi $40,000 and paid his expenses including travel back and forth to his home country of Yemen and new clothes for the three trials when he testified in the Liberty City Seven case.

Al-Saidi has been charged at least twice with marijuana possession. During the Liberty City Seven trial he admitted to smoking marijuana while participating in the investigation. McMahon said al-Saidi was a daily marijuana smoker.

Between his time in Brooklyn and South Florida, al-Saidi moved with his family to Bridgeport, Connecticut where he met a woman who became his girlfriend. The pair moved to Harlem where they shared an apartment. A man described by Norman as a "close friend and business partner of al-Saidi" raped al-Saidi's girlfriend. Al-Saidi extorted $7,000 from the rapist in exchange for convincing his girlfriend to drop the rape charge. She did.

Using the money extorted from the man who raped his girlfriend, McMahon says al-Saidi moved to Miami Beach. Soon after arriving in South Florida, al-Saidi assaulted his girlfriend during an argument which came about when the girlfriend discovered that al-Saidi had married a woman in Yemen.

On November 14, 2004 al-Saidi was arrested and charged with assault. Flat broke, he remained in jail for five weeks, unable to make bail.

Al-Saidi called his NYPD contacts for help. The NYPD, in turn, referred al-Saidi to the FBI.

Special Agent John Velazquez met with al-Saidi in jail. He arranged for al-Saidi to be released. Ten months later, al-Saidi told the FBI about Narseal Batiste, a man he met while working as a clerk at a convenience store. Al-Saidi told the FBI that Batiste believed that he [al-Saidi] was al-Qaeda and that he [al-Saidi] believed that Batiste was a terrorist.

And from these tenuous claims by al-Saidi, the Liberty City Seven case was born.

On January 1, 2007, after the arrest of the Liberty City Seven but before the trial, al-Saidi was charged with several traffic violations including unsafe operating of a motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

When the Liberty City Seven case went to trial, al-Saidi was in Yemen. The FBI paid to fly al-Saidi back to the United States, but had to arrest him on an outstanding bench warrant related to the traffic violations. The FBI paid his fines, bought him a new suit and presented him as a Cooperating Witness #1 at the Liberty City Seven trials.

Al-Saidi surfaced in New Rochelle two years ago after bouncing around from place to place in the Bronx, Mount Vernon and Yonkers. Records also show an address in Bridgeport, CT.

In addition to the marijuana grow house and the building code violations at 384 North Al-Saidi was issued a Court Appearance Ticket by the New Rochelle building department in October 2014 for illegal signage at 149 North Avenue.

Al-Saidi was served a notice of eviction at 384 North Avenue by the New Rochelle City Marshall in December 2014.

Al-Saidi is suspected of storing and selling marijuana out of his store at 149 North Avenue including sales of marijuana to Monroe College students.

According to one source, Al-Saidi had hidden compartments built into flooring and shelving in the store to hide cartons of illegal cigarettes and marijuana.

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FOX NEWS: Suspect Wanted al-Qaida Help

Al Saidi was a paid informant for the FBI on the case, and had served as a paid informant for law enforcement agencies previously. Another paid FBI informant took the stand earlier in the week and defense attorneys insisted their clients went along with him in hopes of scamming him out of about $50,000 and never intended to carry out any attacks. Al Saidi came to know the defendants through a convenience store for which he worked. He denied being a part of al-Qaida.

WASHINGTON POST: FBI Role in Terror Probe Questioned

Court documents and testimony at hearings describe how the plot unfolded. Last October, Batiste allegedly contacted a Middle Eastern-born Miami resident who was about to travel to Yemen. The man dealt in fresh produce; Batiste was unaware that he was also a paid informant for the FBI.

The man -- known only as CW1 in court documents -- told his FBI handlers that Batiste had spoken of forming an army to wage jihad and overthrow the federal government. He said Batiste was "willing to work with al Qaeda to accomplish the mission and wanted to travel with [the informant] overseas to make appropriate connections," according to court documents.

The FBI would eventually pay the informant, who had previous arrests for assault and marijuana possession, $10,500 for his services in the Batiste investigation and reimburse him $8,815 for his expenses.

Over the next few weeks, the informant stayed in touch with Batiste and spent a night at the "embassy" where the group was headquartered. He reported seeing guns, karate practice and fighting drills that involved machetes...In mid-January, the first informant contacted Batiste's closest associate in the group to report that approval for the plan had come from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. When bin Laden issued a public statement saying that al-Qaeda would soon strike in the United States, the informant passed word to Batiste that it was a reference to the missions he was planning.

MIAMI NEW TIMES: Liberty City Seven Trial Travesty

A look at what the jury doesn't know — much of which McMahon uncovered — paints a dubious picture of the government's frontmen, beginning with Abbas al-Saidi, a 22-year-old Yemeni operative at the heart of the case. By his own account in court, al-Saidi, who moved to Brooklyn with his family when he was nine years old, began snitching on drug dealers to the New York Police Department when he was just 16.

Although he told the jury he became an informant to do "good," all narcs have ties to the drug world. Otherwise they couldn't be narcs. And al-Saidi has been charged at least twice with marijuana possession and admitted on the stand he smoked pot while participating in the Liberty City Seven investigation.

But al-Saidi didn't just inform on drug dealers he didn't like; he also got involved in terrorism investigations. While he was still a teenager, the NYPD put him up in an apartment and paid him $40 a day for the work.

WIKIPEDIA: Liberty City Seven

The two FBI informants, both Middle Eastern-born, were known as CW1 (al-Saidi), a Miami resident who had previous arrests for assault and marijuana possession, and CW2, who had worked for the FBI for six years and was awaiting approval of his petition for political asylum in the United States.

PROMETHEUS BOOKS: Spinning the Law: Trying Cases in the Court of Public Opinion (Kendall Coffey)

The "Liberty City Seven" were a ragtag group of men, mostly from the Caribbean, indicted in 2006 on charges of terrorism. No terrorism indictment met greater skepticism than this one. Jenny Martinez, a Stanford law professor involved in the Padilla case, noted that in both cases "the government has really oversold what it's got."

The charges against the Liberty City Seven came about thanks to Abbas al-Saidi, a Yemeni clerk who had been a police informant even before the FBI helped him avoid charges for assaulting his girlfriend. When he reported that he had met Narseal Batiste, an unemployed construction worker who boasted of wanting to create an Islamic State in America, Abbas al-Saidi went from local arrestee to federal asset.

The FBI hired al-Saidi and another informant (also originally charged with domestic abuse) to cozy up to Batiste. Al-Saidi posed as an al Qaeda financier and he and the other informant earned about one hundred twenty thousand dollars from federal authorities for their efforts in leading the Liberty City Seven deeper and deeper into trouble.

MOTHER JONES: Department of Pre-Crime: Why are citizens being locked up for "un-American" thoughts?

The more details that emerged about the case, the fishier it looked. The charges had come about because of a 23-year-old Yemeni clerk named Abbas al-Saidi, who'd been a police informant since he was 16. The FBI helped bail him out when he was in jail facing charges of assaulting his girlfriend. A year later, Saidi returned the favor, telling the feds he'd met a young man—Narseal Batiste—who boasted of wanting to create an Islamic state in America.

The FBI hired Saidi to cozy up to Batiste and his followers, and sent in another informant (also charged with domestic abuse), Elie Assad, to pose as an Al Qaeda financier named "Mohammed." Nearly everything Gonzales said the plotters "did" happened at the urging of the two informants, who reportedly earned about $120,000 from the feds for their help. (Assad, originally from Lebanon, was also granted political asylum.)

AL JAZEERA: Informants - Full Documentary - Al Jazeera Investigates

Elle Assad is one of three Professional FBI Informants featured in a documentary by journalist Trevor Aaronson. The segments on Assad begins at about the 5 minute mark after a reference to Abbas al-Saidi's efforts to develop a case against