Local News

Authorities Say Apex Pilot Not Linked To Terrorism

Posted May 22, 2002 7:28 a.m. EDT

— Some federal law enforcement officials have closed investigations of a Tanzanian native detained in North Carolina after determining he has no connections to terrorists.

Issaya Nombo, who was arrested by federal authorities on April 15 at his Apex home for overstaying his visa, attracted attention from the Immigration and Naturalization Service when his name was found on a computer printout in a cave in Afghanistan.

The printout was a Web page showing Nombo's graduation from a Florida flight school.

Nombo could still face legal problems after federal officials said he was found with a counterfeit green card and Social Security card.

"He's still in custody, and I think our interest in him has waned," said Raleigh FBI agent Frank Perry. "It's pretty much in the hands of the INS."

An experienced pilot, Nombo was convicted of fraud in South Africa for purchasing an airline pilot's examination. Nombo and another man did not show up for sentencing in March 2001.

Two months later, he applied for and received a student visa to take flying lessons in Florida.

INS agents discovered that Nombo's student visa had expired last August, officials said. Authorities tracked him to North Carolina and detained him April 15, but Mark Corallo, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice, said investigators quickly learned Nombo had no ties to terrorism.

Sue Brown, a spokeswoman with the INS in Atlanta, refused to answer questions about Nombo and referred all inquiries to the Department of Justice.

The name was found on a printed copy of the home page of the Web site run by Voyager Aviation in Merritt Island, Fla. The page included a congratulations to Nombo and two other recent graduates of the flight school, the FBI said.

Perry had said earlier that it is possible terrorists had been searching the Internet for flight schools and for recent graduates of certain ethnicities who might be recruited.

A man and a woman, both Tanzanian, were arrested with Nombo in April and also are under INS detention, officials have said.

Nombo began working as a cashier at a Raleigh-Durham International Airport restaurant in August but was laid off after Sept. 11 when air travel slumped, officials have said. He was rehired in mid-December and worked there until March 12.