NBC4 - DC
The occupants of the SUV, a man, a woman and two children, appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and were seen “hiding the camera,” authorities said.
At the toll plaza, the Baltimore County officers reported what they had seen to Maryland Transportation Authority Police. MTA officers stopped the SUV west of the bridge and confiscated the camera, authorities said. Authorities said the camera had recorded close-up images that seemed atypical for a tourist. Investigators also told News4 that the tape also shows the roadway for about a mile leading up to the bridge.
When questioned by police, the couple said they were returning “from the beach,” but could not specify which beach they had visited. There was luggage and two beach chairs in the car, according to authorities.
Elbarasse was taken into custody as a “material witness” in a Chicago terrorism case according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland. He made an initial appearance in Baltimore’s federal courthouse Monday before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm.
A federal grand jury in Chicago, in an indictment unsealed and announced on Friday, described Elbarasse as a “co-conspirator” in a 15-year racketeering conspiracy in the United States and abroad to illegally finance terrorist activities in Israel.
Elbarasse was not indicted, but court documents allege that he and defendant Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, considered one of the highest-ranking Hamas leaders internationally, shared a Virginia bank account that was used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hamas.
Authorities have focused on Elbarasse before. In 1998, federal prosecutors tried to convince him to cooperate with a New York grand jury, offering him immunity if he would testify, according to the Chicago indictment. But Elbarasse, a U.S. citizen, refused to answer any questions about Hamas funding, and was jailed for eight months, according to newspaper accounts at the time.
In the 1990s, Elbarasse was a comptroller at the Islamic Saudi Academy, a Saudi-financed school in Alexandria, Va. Tax records show that he is the former director of the Islamic Association for Palestine, a group formerly based in Richardson, Texas, which has been labeled as a Hamas front by Israel.
Ismail Selim Elbarasse was terminated by the Islamic Saudi Academy in 1998, the same year he was jailed for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the finances of the radical Muslim group Hamas.
The Saudi government sponsors the academy. Its director of education said he was unaware of Elbarasse’s ties to Hamas and would have fired him earlier if he had been.
But within the past three years, former students have been accused of planning a suicide bombing in Israel and plotting with the al-Qaida terrorist network.