By LORENA MONGELLI IN NEWBURGH, NY and LUKAS I. ALPERT IN NYC
New York Post, May 23, 2009
A slick FBI informant roped four Muslim converts into a horrific terror plot to blow up synagogues and military jets by handing them piles of cash and gifts and even bags of weed, relatives of the suspects said today.
"Brother whatever you need, I will get it for you," said the man who the four petty thieves knew as Maqsood, according to Kathleen Baynes, whose long-time boyfriend, James Cromitie is alleged to be the ringleader of the plot.
She said Cromitie, 45, met Maqsood at the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque about a year ago and promised to teach him the truth about Islam.
The man soon was coming by their apartment with increasing frequency and was always flush with cash.
"He was very persistent and every time he came for James he took him away. They said they were going out to eat dinner," she said. "Whenever we needed anything Maqsood would help -- like financially --he gave us money to pay rent.
"He was just constantly around. It was like he was stalking him."
Co-conspirator David Williams's girlfriend Cassandra McKoy insists the men were duped into the plot with the lure of a cash payday and that religious hatred had nothing to do with it.
"They aren't radicals they were just financially motivated. They aren't terrorists. If Maqsood wasn't in the picture they would've never come up with this idea," she said. "This was not their idea. They make it sound like they sought him out and said we want to do this when he's the one who approached them. He enticed them with money.
"Maqsood wasn't even allowed inside the mosque, he waited in the parking lot for them and offered them $25,000 to join."
Sources say Maqsood was really Shahed Hussain -- a Pakistani native who runs hotels upstate and has worked for the FBI since 2003 after getting into trouble in a fraud case. He played an integral role in unraveling another terror-related case in Albany in 2004.
Baynes, 42, dated Cromitie -- a career criminal who has been in jail more than 20 times -- for six years. She said he converted to Islam during his last prison stint but wasn't serious.
"James is a wannabe Muslim. He wasn't real Muslin. He never prayed," she said.
But during the course of the year, Maqsood kept trying to steer Cromitie down a path to jihad - giving him religious pamphlets, clothing and prayer rugs. In the end, it seemed that cash and gifts worked better.
She said Maqsood promised to get Cromitie jobs and once said he'd give him a black Mercedes Benz. On repeated occasions he gave Cromitie cameras, cash and even drugs.
"Maqsood gave him a lot of marijuana," she said.
An FBI spokesman did not return a call for comment on the gift giving.
Williams' mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, said her son fell under Maqsood's sway in April with promises to help with medical bills for his sick brother.
"Maqsood said 'Don't worry brother, I am going to help with your brother's hospital bills,'" she quoted him as saying. "This man did nothing but set these guys up."
Baynes said she never trusted Maqsood's intentions and that the imam at the mosque warned James to stay away from the interloper.
"James told me that the Imam said to be careful because this man is trying to recruit people to go to Pakistan," she said. "James said he was not that crazy to do something like that."
As Wednesday's attack neared, Baynes said Cromitie's mood changed.
"Lately James hasn't been the same. He was just acting different," she said. "All he would do all day is smoke weed and play video games with his friends [co-conspirators Williams, Laguerre Payen and Onta Williams]."
On the day of the attack, she said the men gathered and that Maqsood "looked real nervous."
"He was standing by the car twitching," she said.
Then, as they were about to leave, Cromitie kissed her on the cheek and promised, "Soon we are going to be all right," she said. "I guess he meant financially he meant that we were going to be okay."
She said a friend told her James had said he was going to be getting $50,000.