A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] on Thursday sentenced Russell Defreitas, a Guyanese airport cargo handler, to life in prison [FBI press release] for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks on John F International Kennedy Airport (JFK) [official website]. Defreitas and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir, originally arrested [JURIST report] in 2007, were convicted by a federal jury in July on charges of conspiracy to attack a public transportation system, conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials, conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility. Kadir was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] in December for his role in the plot. A third defendant, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty in June for supporting the plot and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A fourth co-conspirator, Kareem Ibrahim, awaits trial on the same charges as Defreitas and Kadir. US Attorney Loretta Lynch, said, "Russell Defreitas plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9/11. But law enforcement detected and thwarted the plot, saving lives. Now, our courts have dispensed justice by handing out the life sentence that Defreitas richly deserves."
According to the original complaint [text, PDF], the plot was intended to "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks," according to one of the suspects. The plot could have destroyed parts of New York's borough of Queens [official website], where an underground fuel pipeline serving the airport runs. Defreitas, designer of the plot, sought to use his experience as a cargo handler for the airport to attack JFK's fuel tanks and pipelines. He recruited Kadir, Nur and Ibrahim during several trips he made to Guyana and Trinidad. Authorities tracked the plot for more than a year before making the arrests. Defreitas had said he formed the plot more than a decade ago, saying he chose the airport because its destruction would put "the whole country in mourning."