Role of NYPD's Informant Led FBI to Drop Jose Pimentel Terror Case

By Murray Weiss on November 22, 2011 9:13am | Updated on November 22, 2011 1:01pm

The lawyer for Hamilton Heights "terror suspect" Jose Pimentel says the NYPD is hyping up his client as a homegrown “lone wolf” Islamic radical inspired by Al Qaeda.

Supporting his claim was the glaring absence of any official from the FBI at the City Hall press conference held Sunday night by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.

"We take these requests quite seriously,” a federal official explained about the NYPD's pitch of the Pimentel case. "The fact that we are not involved says something."

So why did the feds opt out?

The problem can be simply put: How much of Pimentel’s interest in bomb making and attacking New York targets was of his own making, and how much was facilitated by an NYPD informant keeping tabs on him?

The informant was with Pimentel at virtually every step of the plot, according to the criminal complaint.

The informant even went shopping several times with Pimentel to Home Depot to purchase materials for the device, which Pimentel was secretly recorded constructing last Saturday — in the informant’s apartment — the documents said.

"Let’s just say there were issues whether [Pimentel] had the ability to do this without the intercession of the confidential informant," the federal source said.

Sources told "On the Inside" that the FBI was given the "right of first refusal" in the case months ago, but after a series of meetings here in Manhattan and at the Justice Department in Washington, the collective decision was for the department to hold their federal noses and pass on the Pimentel probe.

Pimentel was on the local law enforcement radar as far back as five years ago, when he lived in upstate Schenectady and started becoming radicalized.

When he was thinking of following his wife back to New York, the NYPD was told about him. To its credit, the NYPD, which is crazed about protecting the Big Apple against another terror attack, maintains relationships with regional police agencies regarding anyone who might see the city as a target.

In January 2010, Pimentel, a Dominican Republic native, decided to move back to Hamilton Heights, but unbeknownst to him he was under the watchful eyes of the NYPD Intelligence Division.

Over the next year and a half, while under police surveillance, the NYPD also managed to get a confidential informant to sidle up to him and ingratiate himself to Pimentel, who was voicing his desire to pledge his allegiance to al-Awlaki and the Al Qaeda cause.

Five months ago, the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney teamed up in another terror case that the FBI decided to forego.

That one involved two Queens men who bought guns and allegedly talked about shooting up synagogues in Manhattan and “take to the whole entire building” and kill Jews.

They were caught on West 58th St. on the Upper West Side obtaining a hand grenade, three semi-automatic pistols and 150 rounds of ammunition. They were also mulling blowing up churches and were asking an undercover detective posing as a gun dealer if they could get bullet proof vests, a silencer and police radio.

In the end, the suspects became the first to be charged under state terror laws. But a grand jury didn't end up indicting them on the top terror charges.  Instead, they were hit with lower-level terror and gun charges. 

The problem with that case was similar to this one. The role of the undercover detective as facilitator became an issue.

The feds passed on that case, too.

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