A Tunisian man charged in an unsuccessful plot to derail an Amtrak train en route from Penn Station to Toronto copped a plea Wednesday to less serious immigration charges.
Ahmed Abassi, 27, avoided terrorism charges by pleading guilty in Manhattan federal court to lying on his visa application and to immigration officials when asked why he flew to the United States in 2013.
“I stated on my visa application that my intention was to enter the United States to engage in business” as a real estate agent, Abassi told Judge Miriam Cedarbaum. “I lied because my entire purpose was to return to Canada.”
Abassi, who previously lived in Canada, “radicalized” one of the alleged train plotters, Chiheb Esseghaier, and met with him in New York City after traveling here in mid-March of 2013, prosecutors said last year in court filings. An undercover agent recorded both men discussing a plot to release bacteria in the air or water to kill up to 100,000 people. the feds said.
Abassi faces up six years in prison at sentencing on July 23 but could be released from jail and immediately deported if Cedarbaum agrees to a defense request for time served. His lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, claimed the undercover agent entrapped her client.
Abassi had faced up to 50 years in prison on terror charges.
The plea deal is a far cry from how Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara previously portrayed him in a statement last year in which he referred to Abassi as radical planning to “commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here.”