Sunday, May 20, 2007

NJ: On the trail of the Ft. Dix 6

"So they had time to drink and swim and plan a massacre," Herman mused. "It's crazy."

GOULDSBORO, Pa. -- Cassy Herman booked two unforgettable renters last winter for her Pocono Mountain vacation property. First came Eljvir Duka, a 23-year-old Cherry Hill resident, who wanted the Gouldsboro, Pa., house on Feb. 1. Duka offered Her man a $900 cash deposit in early December; she took it.

Six weeks later, a second man asked to lease the property for the end of January. He promised to leave hours before Herman's next renter arrived. Again, she agreed. But something gnawed at Her man as she hung up the phone. So she picked it up, redialed the last number on her caller ID and listened in stunned silence at what came next.

"FBI," a voice answered.

I couldn't believe it when I read how boneheaded the FBI was with that one! Until I read about this BIG boneheaded move. Talk about Keystone Cops!

One of the odder moments outlined in the FBI affidavit occurred at a local convenience store early the next day. As Eljvir and Dritan Duka wandered into the store, they recognized another customer -- the undercover agent who had been at the firing range -- and began chatting with him about guns. They allegedly asked their new acquaintance if he knew where they could buy assault rifles. Dritan Duka told the agent they wanted Russian AK-47s, not the cheaper Chinese version, be cause the Russian model was sturdier and easier to bury in the dirt or sand, according to the complaint. It's not clear how the agent responded.

About that week:
At least 14 people crowded into Herman's house that week, a band of chatty, vodka-swilling young men who included roofers, a baker and a cab driver. Agents recorded a key defendant claiming that all of them -- "less one or two" -- planned to participate in the at tack. In the end, prosecutors charged only four on the trip -- Duka; his brothers, Shain and Dritan; and another man from Cherry Hill, Muhamad Ibrahim Shnewer. Those four and a fifth, Serdar Tatar of Philadelphia, were charged with terror conspiracy. A sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu of Atlantic County, is accused of supplying guns to the plotters.

About Gouldsboro and the house they rented from Herman:
North of Allentown and south of Scranton, Gouldsboro straddles two townships that claim about 3,000 residents, a total that ebbs and flows depending on the season. Its biggest commodities might be the same ones all hamlets seek: peace, quiet, isolation.

Small lakes dot the landscape, as does a 2,800-acre state park. An Army tank sits outside the local American Legion post, where veterans share drinks along a dark, smoky bar. There's a gas station, a convenience store and a shooting range. The Stars and Stripes fly from every other telephone pole on Main Street. Flags honoring U.S. prisoners of war hang on the rest.

On a Web site, Herman advertises her house as the only one of its kind in the gated development called Big Bass Lake. Filling 5,000 square feet, the house sports a hot tub and sauna, a 62-inch television in the master suite and an outdoor fireplace "for roasting marshmallows."

Sounds lovely, doesn't it? My question: Where did the money come from to fund this little outing...there's lots more good Sunday morning reading at the link. I especially liked reading how the attorneys are calling this terror confab "a vacation" and an "open house." Yeah, right.