FBI informant gets probation for fraud

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A troubled Yemeni immigrant who once set himself on

fire outside the White House was given five years' probation yesterday for bank

fraud after federal prosecutors extolled his work as an informant in a major

terrorism case.

In an indication that the informant, Mohamed Alanssi, is continuing to do

work for federal investigators, the FBI asked that he be allowed to travel

overseas for the agency from time to time. Judge Jack B. Weinstein agreed with

that request, but cautioned that Alanssi had to stay out of trouble.

Alanssi, 52, had been the key informant in the recent case against cleric

Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad and his aide Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed. Both

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defendants, who are also from Yemen, were convicted in March of conspiring to

provide material support, including financing, to Hamas and al-Qaida.

Al-Moayad, who has been a major religious figure in Yemen, was also

convicted of actually providing support to Hamas.

Alanssi, who arrived in the United States in August 2000 on a tourist visa,

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testified at the trial that he felt it was his duty after the Sept. 11 attacks

to cooperate with U.S. officials against terrorism. Under the control of FBI

agents, Alanssi traveled to Yemen, where he talked on numerous occasions with

al-Moayad, whom he first met in 1995.

In a critical part of the investigation, Alanssi worked as a confidential

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informant with another FBI undercover operative in Frankfurt, Germany, in early

2003. Alanssi and the second operative, who was posing as a disaffected black

American Muslim, had hours of secretly tape-recorded conversations that proved

to be central pieces of evidence leading to the conviction of al-Moayad and

Zayed.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Moore praised Alanssi's work on behalf of the

FBI and asked for Weinstein to take that into consideration. She indicated

that when Alanssi set himself afire outside the White House last year, he was

under tremendous psychological pressure because of his wife's terminal stomach

cancer and his inability to travel back to Yemen to be with her.

Defense attorney Devereaux L. Cannick said that his client, because of his

government work, was living in a physical and psychological prison.

Alanssi pleaded guilty in May 2004 to a charge of bank fraud, something his

attorney indicated was prompted by the various pressures he was feeling.

Though he testified in the al-Moayad trial, Alanssi was not called by the

prosecution. Instead, the defense had him testify. But Alanssi's testimony, in

which he was combative and assailed the defendants as being tied to terrorism,

seemed to backfire.

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