The FBI’s key informant in the recent Ohio bomb plot had a long criminal history and faced multiple indictments even as he cooperated with authorities, court documents revealed this week.
Shaquille Azir, 39, was indicted twice for writing bad checks in July and December 2011, and he’d previously faced that same charge on a number of occasions, according to documents obtained by The Smoking Gun.
He’d also faced charges of robbery, possessing stolen property and probation violation, and has filed nine bankruptcy petitions in just the last 12 years, the site noted.
As owner of the Desdy Property Group, a building contracting company, Azir allegedly employed some of the plotters and said he wanted to keep the explosives in one of his facilities. He later obtained phony C4 from an undercover FBI agent, then told his co-conspirators that he’d fronted the money to buy it.
Of the men arrested, Douglas Wright, 26, Joshua Stafford, 23, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were reportedly regulars at “Occupy Cleveland” meetings and had identified themselves as part of the group on Facebook. The fifth suspect, Connor Stevens, 20, had no apparent affiliation to the protest group.
Court documents (PDF) noted that Stevens said just days before the plot was to be carried out that he wanted nothing to do with it, but still sought to retain his employment with Azir.
The record also indicates that they group discussed bombing a Ku Klux Klan headquarters and a Federal Reserve bank before targeting the bridge. They also considered targeting a jail, but opted against the attack to avoid harming the inmates. They allegedly wanted to stage an attack on “corporate America and the financial system,” but it’s unclear how blowing up a bridge would have accomplished those ends.
The five men, who never actually obtained any explosives but believed they had, are now charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — meaning they could all face life in prison. Other charges include criminal conspiracy and attempted use of an explosive device. The next court hearing in the case has been set for Monday in Cleveland.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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