Kevin Ingram Pal Questioned About bin Laden

Kevin Ingram, the former high-flying Goldman Sachs bond trader

who was arrested on June 12 in South Florida on money-laundering charges, was

snared in a long-running government sting operation that was closing in on a

purported Pakistani buyer of advanced and sophisticated military arms,

including some with nuclear capabilities, government documents show.

Dangling $32 million worth of Stinger and TOW missiles, parts for

Cobra helicopters and machine guns as bait, agents for the F.B.I., the Bureau

of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and U.S. Customs made use of an unsavory

roster of middlemen and foreign contacts as they struggled to build their case.

But the government failed to identify a Pakistani connection or

any other foreign would-be arms customers with possible terrorist links, and

instead arrested two small-time Jersey City dealmakers-an Egyptian and a

Pakistani-who had tried haplessly for two and a half years to find a buyer for

a stash of weapons gathering dust in a Miami warehouse.

Also arrested was Mr. Ingram, the former head of the

mortgage-backed securities desks at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, who has

since pleaded guilty to charges that he agreed to launder money purported to be

coming from arms sales provided to him by federal agents.

Mr. Ingram’s arrest has now taken on added significance following

the events of Sept. 11.

Federal agents, seeking to find out more about who perpetrated

the terror attacks and to root out any other terrorists, have been questioning

and arresting Arab and Pakistani nationals who live in and around Jersey

City. Coming under immediate suspicion have been the

two men linked to Mr. Ingram: Egyptian-born Diaa Badr Mohsen, a self-styled

entrepreneur and a money-losing business partner of Mr. Ingram’s, and Mohammed

Raja Malik, a Pakistani liquor-store owner. Both are from the Jersey

City area.

On Sept. 21, federal agents questioned Mr. Mohsen, who has

remained in federal custody, at the Palm Beach County Jail about people he

might know in Jersey City with

possible links to Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader. According to his

lawyer, Mr. Mohsen knows none of the recent bin Laden suspects and has since

been moved to a more secure jail site for his own safety.

Mr. Ingram is out on bail, facing sentencing on Nov. 30. He has

agreed to testify against Mr. Mohsen and Mr. Malik, who are scheduled to stand

trial on Nov. 5 in Miami on

arms-smuggling charges.

Richard Lubin, Mr. Ingram’s lawyer, denies categorically that his

client had any knowledge of Mr. Mohsen’s and Mr. Malik’s intent to export arms

abroad. He also denies that Mr. Ingram knew that the money he was laundering

supposedly came from arms sales, despite the government’s contention that

undercover agents had explicitly told him so.

“There is no connection whatsoever between Kevin and arms sales,”

Mr. Lubin says.

The F.B.I. has declined to comment on their broader investigation

into the activities of Mr. Mohsen and Mr. Malik, and there is no indication

that federal authorities are investigating Mr. Ingram as well. Nevertheless,

court papers being filed in preparation for the upcoming trial, as well as

conversations with defense lawyers, paint a stranger picture yet of Mr. Ingram

and his post–Wall Street crowd.

The story, as laid out in court papers, begins in December 1998,

when a small-time Florida diamond

dealer named Randy Glass was arrested for fraud. Faced with a 20-year sentence,

Mr. Glass made a bid to shorten his time by offering Mr. Mohsen up to A.T.F.

agents as an arms smuggler.

The A.T.F. was interested and an elaborate sting was set up, with

Mr. Glass going undercover to catch Mr. Mohsen-and his alleged contacts-in the

act.

Mr. Mohsen seemed an odd target for a federal undercover

operation. Short, burly and bald, with a brash dealmaker’s bark, he was born in

Egypt and has

lived in the United States

for more than 30 years. The 57-year-old Mr. Mohsen sees himself as a

globe-trotting middleman. He speaks nine languages and has, over the years,

brokered a range of mostly middling deals, such as diamonds in Sierra

Leone and wheat in Egypt.

According to his lawyer, he had never been convicted of arms smuggling.

On Dec. 7, 1998,

the 49-year-old Mr. Glass called Mr. Mohsen at his Jersey

City home and invited him down to his house in Boca

Raton, court papers show. There, Mr. Glass told Mr.

Mohsen of his high-level contacts in the military and of his access to surplus

military equipment: Stinger missiles, Cobra helicopters and assorted parts,

surface-to-air missiles and more. Mr. Mohsen, with his numerous overseas

business contacts, would be perfectly placed to find a buyer, Mr. Glass

allegedly told him.

According to his lawyer, Mr. Mohsen was intrigued on several

levels. As a businessman, it looked like a fine opportunity to make a buck. But

Mr. Mohsen, an American citizen, also loved the idea of clandestinely selling

weapons to U.S.

allies abroad.

“It’s just like Oliver North,” he said excitedly to Mr. Glass,

according to one person familiar with his case. 

On Jan. 21, 1999,

Mr. Glass drove a van full of inert Stinger missiles to a hotel parking lot at

the Meadowlands, court papers reveal. One person familiar with the case said

that Mr. Mohsen was thrilled-he grabbed a few missiles, struck a martial pose

and had an accommodating undercover agent snap a picture of him.

Off the bat, he mentioned an associate of his in Egypt

with solid contacts with the embattled Democratic

Republic of the Congo, a source said. But

that deal fell through, sources say, when a cease-fire was struck in July 1999.

It was during this time, in early 1999, that Mr. Mohsen was

introduced to Mr. Ingram, also a Jersey City

resident, through a mutual acquaintance, according to a source familiar with

the matter.

Up to that point, Mr. Ingram’s life had followed a starkly

different track. He’d had a successful eight-year run at Goldman Sachs, then

became head of the mortgage-backed securities desk for Deutsche Bank. But in

September 1998, he’d been forced out of that job following a market downturn.

He left, however, a rich man: With the help of Jesse Jackson, Mr. Ingram, who

is black, negotiated a settlement-from $10 million to $20 million, some

speculate-in return for scrapping a wrongful-termination suit. After 11 years

on Wall Street, Mr. Ingram-just 43-was now on the hunt for new projects.

He started a bond-trading house on the Internet and invested in a

number of Harlem restaurants. And, soon after meeting

Mr. Mohsen, he set up a Jersey City–based construction company called

B.I.A.-one black, one Italian and one Arab (Mr. Ingram; Rocco Romero, a

relative of Mr. Mohsen’s wife; and Mr. Mohsen, who ran the company).

Mr. Mohsen led Mr. Ingram into several unsuccessful investment

endeavors overseas-a telecommunications project in Somalia,

oil in Egypt.

In one case, Mr. Mohsen was given $30,000 in cash by Mr. Ingram to explore

buying a factory in Egypt.

But sources close to Mr. Mohsen say that he was living more off the expense

money given to him by Mr. Ingram than from any business gains.

“They were looking to make a quick, tax-free buck,” says one

source close to the case. “But none of the deals worked, and the construction

company was a sinkhole.”

In July 1999, Mr. Mohsen was introduced to Mr. Malik, 52, a

Pakistani national who ran a chain of liquor stores in Jersey

City. According to a source familiar with the case,

Mr. Malik said he had a connection to sell arms to Pakistan,

which until last weekend was subject to a U.S.

military-aid embargo because of its ongoing production and deployment of

nuclear weapons. According to a government affidavit, Mr. Malik had military

contacts abroad. These contacts wanted to know, as well, if the government

would accept heroin as a form of payment, the affidavit states.

Mr. Malik and a Pakistani associate, Raja Ghulam Abbas, together

with Mr. Mohsen, met with Mr. Glass and undercover federal agents over lunch at

the Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan

on July 14, 1999. Mr. Malik

and Mr. Abbas were interested in securing 200 to 300 Stinger missiles for their

client, court papers show, at a cost of around $32 million. Mr. Mohsen’s lawyer

contends that the clients represented Pakistani military officials. A spokesman

at the Pakistani embassy says that Pakistan

has no information on the case.

In June 2000, Mr. Abbas, a Jersey City businessman, wrote to the

chief of general staff of the Pakistani army: “We are now in a position to

offer you the complete range of equipment and spares-including Stinger

missiles, 1999 version, with latest dedicated night sight; spares for all types

of Cobra helicopters; the TOW missile and any miscellaneous items from radar to

guns. All for a very attractive package.” The letter went on to say: “We would

like to be of service to you and Pakistan

at this critical time and request that you provide us an opportunity to serve

our nation.”

At times, a deal seemed close. But the $32 million sale that Mr.

Glass and his F.B.I. handlers so desperately sought never went down.

Finally, on June 6, Mr. Glass’ handlers at the F.B.I. and the

A.T.F. ran out of patience. After two and a half years, it was time to shut

down the sting. On June 12, Mr. Mohsen and Mr. Malik were again lured to the Miami

warehouse full of arms, and A.T.F. agents swooped in for the bust.

Also on June 6, according to the government’s account, an

undercover agent called Mr. Ingram and said he had $2 million coming in from

arms sales that he needed laundered. Mr. Ingram got on a plane to Florida.

On June 12, he too was arrested as he prepared to fly the cash overseas to London.

Law-enforcement authorities would not comment on their interest

since Sept. 11 in Mr. Mohsen, Mr. Malik or Mr. Abbas, who remains at large.

“My client was under the impression he was working for military

intelligence or the C.I.A.,” said Mr. Mohsen’s lawyer, Valentin Rodriguez. “His

goal was to help the government and maybe find some terrorists along the way.

The bin Laden connection is the craziest thing I ever heard.”

Richard Lubin, Mr. Ingram’s lawyer, denies that Mr. Ingram was

ever aware of Mr. Mohsen’s arms-dealing activities. Certainly Mr. Ingram-though

a close friend and associate of Mr. Mohsen-was not around during the arms

talks, nor was he known to have contact with Mr. Malik or Mr. Abbas, according

to the government’s case.

His primary interest was money-laundering.  According to one source close to Mr. Mohsen,

when Mr. Mohsen first introduced his partner to Mr. Glass on June 7, 1999, in Florida,

he referred to him as his money manager. On June 18, they met again at Mr.

Ingram’s offices at the World Trade

Center, where Mr. Ingram

facilitated a $100,000 transfer for the undercover Mr. Glass.

Two months later, he and Mr. Mohsen met with Mr. Glass and other

government agents at Mr. Glass’ Boca Raton

residence. “I’m a financial engineer,” he was recorded as saying, and he tried

to persuade them to deposit $80 million in an offshore account for him to

manage. Let’s see what you can do with $250,000, Mr. Glass and company

countered.

Taking their $22,500 commission, Mr. Mohsen and Mr. Ingram

celebrated that night at a neighborhood strip bar, spending $3,800 on bottles

of Dom Perignon, before retiring for the night on the Ingee, Mr. Ingram’s

44-foot Sea Ray vessel.