A federal judge in Brooklyn on Friday sentenced Kareem Ibrahim, a frail former imam from Trinidad, to life in prison for his role in a failed 2006 plot to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines at Kennedy Airport.
"His willingness to engage in conduct that could have destroyed thousands upon thousands of innocent lives . . . far outweighs any good works that he might have done in his past," said U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry.
Co-conspirators Russell DeFreitas of Brooklyn and Abdul Kadir of Guyana were previously sentenced to life after being convicted in 2010. A third man, Abdel Nur, also of Guyana, pleaded guilty and got 15 years. Ibrahim, 66, was not tried until last year because of medical issues, including depression and kidney problems.
Prosecutors said that DeFreitas, a Guyanese-American and former Kennedy baggage handler, recruited contacts in the Caribbean for an attack that he hoped would engulf Queens and create mayhem on the scale of Sept. 11.
The plot was infiltrated by an FBI informant early on, and the group floundered through 2006 and 2007 in efforts to make concrete progress. Ibrahim, an associate of a radical Muslim leader in Trinidad, became involved in the latter stages, and allegedly urged outreach to Iran for support.
Ibrahim did not speak at the sentencing nor did a daughter, who attended, but defense lawyer Michael Hueston urged Irizarry to give Ibrahim a break because the plot itself was more talk than action, and his role was small."He's simply not a person with equal footing with any hardened terrorist," Hueston said.
But Irizarry said she agreed with prosecutors that the plot was a serious threat and Ibrahim shared the goals of the other plotters. "This case shows the government at its best in protecting the security of this country," she said.
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch praised the sentence. "Kareem Ibrahim abandoned the true tenets of his religion and plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9/11," she said. " . . . Now our courts have dispensed justice by handing out the life sentence that Ibrahim deserves."
Ibrahim's lawyers said they planned to appeal.