Jewelry kiosk worker sentenced on immigration charge

A Pakistani national illegally in the United States and arrested after taking 25 photos of the World Trade Center complex several days before the terrorist attacks was sentenced today to six months in prison and ordered deported, according to media reports.

Ashar Iqbal Butt, 22, who needed a Urdu interpreter for the federal court hearing in Philadelphia, made no statement about his Sept. 12, 2001, arrest, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Butt, told federal agents he took a roll of pictures of the buildings just to pass time while he waited for a ride, the AP reported.

The arrest of Butt, who worked at jewelry kiosk in suburban Allentown, led to an investigation of his employer at the time, Intrigue Jewelers.

Butt was arrested the day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks after a photo shop employee at Whitehall Mall, near Allentown, called Lehigh County 911 to report “suspicious activity,” the Inquirer reported. Prosecutors said the photo shop worker told the FBI that Butt dropped off a roll of film on Sept. 8, 2001. When Butt returned for the prints the next day, authorities said, he appeared anxious, in a hurry, and gave several names before the clerk could find the prints.

Butt then gave the FBI conflicting stories about his identity and nationality before finally admitting that his father paid $10,000 to an unidentified Pakistani national who specialized in smuggling Pakistanis into the United States and getting them false immigration documents, the Inquirer reported.

Butt acknowledged he entered the country illegally last year using an altered British passport, but his lawyers said he wanted only to start a new life in the United States, the AP reported.

Butt, who pleaded guilty to immigration violations in June, with credit for time spent will be eligible for release within a few weeks and will be deported after he is freed, the Inquirer reported.

Following Butt’s arrest, FBI agents raided about 75 additional Intrigue Jewelry stores in at least 10 states, and detained about 30 foreign nationals on immigration-related charges, but so far no one has been charged with terrorism-related acts, the Inquirer reported.

Several of those questioned by the FBI have told the AP they were asked whether the stores were sending money to foreign organizations and whether they supported the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Lawyers for several detainees and the attorney for Gold Concept Inc., the company that licenses Intrigue Jewelry franchises, said the accusations were unfounded, the AP reported.