UQ Wire: Israeli 'Movers' Freed, Back in Miami
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Israeli 'Movers' Freed, Back in Miami
Andy of Mayberry Meets the New World Order
May 20, 04 --Venice, FL
by Daniel Hopsicker
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Earlier Related Story In The UQ Wire:
New Israeli Moving Van Mystery
According to law enforcement officials at the scene the rented moving van used by two Israelis involved in the high speed chase near the tiny Appalachian hamlet of Mars Hill, N.C. last week tested positive for drugs, the MadCowMorningNews has learned exclusively.
While the FBI dismissed the finding as a 'false positive,' local law enforcement regards the test as highly accurate.
A spokesman for the FBI also dismissed the importance of the liquid tossed from the van by the men during the pursuit. "It's really no more than littering to be honest," said Thomas Browne, supervisor at the FBI's Johnson City, TN office.
"The Mystery of Mars Hill"
The dogged persistence of local officials in the face of seeming Federal indifference paid dividends when information surfaced this week indicating that the mysterious liquid the men threw out of the van during the pursuit can be used "as a culture, for growing some kind of bug.”
Notwithstanding these developments, the two Israeli
men were released from government custody, after a judge in
Erwin, TN suspended a 30-day sentence and turned the pair,
23-yr old Shmuel Dahan and 19-yr old Almaliach Naor, over to
In earlier statements, INS officials said the men would be subject to immediate deportation. Yet despite convictions for evading arrest, and being in the country illegally on tourist visas, the Israelis were freed on bond Monday morning, a discovery made in a phone call to Summit Moving Van Lines in Miami, the men's employer.
When the caller asked to speak to Shmuel Dahan, a man answering the phone there said, "I'm 'Shmuel."
Even as it ‘went away,’ at least officially, we learned of a possible New Jersey connection to the case, which one wag dubbed ‘The Mystery of Mars Hill.’
Former U.S. Highway 23, where the incident began when County Sheriffs noticed a rental moving truck traveling at a high speed, is a lightly-traveled highway near the North Carolina state line, a road made famous by men who later became renowned NASCAR drivers who used it to outrun and out-wit the authorities.
We retraced the “NASCAR Israelis” route, and it quickly became clear that anyone driving in excess of posted speed limits is in danger in numerous places of plunging a thousand feet down a mountainside.
There is no way anyone could mistake the curvy, winding two-lane mountain road for a well-traveled interstate. But the old US 23 does conveniently bypass the inspection stations on both the north and south-bound Interstate at the Tennessee border, in operation even on weekends.
Either the Israelis were really really lost… or they were trying to travel under the sheriff’s radar.
“They were driving recklessly and at a high rate of speed down an old highway that nobody uses anymore,” said Sheriff Harris who chased them, he said, for more than three miles before they consented to pull over.
"I was really concerned because the driver would not stop after I flashed my headlights for nearly three miles. He was weaving back and forth, and I was wondering what a large truck was doing on a two-lane highway instead of the much-faster I-26 interstate."
The incident highlighted a spate of reports since 9/11 about Israelis in moving vans running afoul of suspicious local law enforcement. But what propelled it into the national news was the “Learn to Fly in Florida” business card found by police in the wallet of 23-year old Dahan, an Israeli military veteran.
"I got a sick feeling when I saw it (the business card)," Kent Harris, Sheriff of Uncoil County in Tennessee, told the Associated Press. He cited the proximity of the Nuclear Fuel Services plant nearby, the nation’s sole provider of fuel for the Navy’s nuclear subs, according to officials.
"They were just three miles from where, if you get off at exit 15, off I-26, you’re just a half-mile from all the nuclear plants," he told the MadCowMorningNews. "There’s Nuclear Fuel Services, which is a privately-owned company. Studdwick, another privately-owned company. And they’re building a third one now.”
What were Israelis doing in Mars Hill?
Today all that remains of the two Israelis’ presence in tiny Mars Hill, North Carolina are the mysteries they left behind. For example, the unidentified liquid thrown out of their van during the chase…
“My biggest concern was finding out what it was,” Sheriff Kent Harris stated in an interview in the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office after the men’s release. “I still can’t understand why they didn’t admit to throwing the stuff out.”
The results were reported two days later. "A bottle authorities say was tossed onto a Tennessee highway during a chase Saturday contained a latex stripper and an acid compound but didn't pose any threat of explosion, according to the FBI," read an account in the Johnson City Press.
Harris said tests showed the bottle contained a mixture of Astromid 18, Gluconic acid and water. Astromid 18 is a latex stripper/cleaner. But he said it's not clear why the two were mixed together, and according to a scientist at the nearby nuclear lab he consulted, the liquid could be used as a culture.
“I asked the lab if there was anything else you can think of that it could be used for,” said Harris. “The chemist told me, ‘Well there’s no way it’s a bomb. If you drank it definitely could kill you. But it could possibly be an agent for growing some kind of bug.’”
Normally in cases like this the FBI would be the final arbiter of “what’s what.” But these are anything but normal times. And the FBI has been behaving strangely since 9/11.
“The FBI never tested it (the liquid),” said the Sheriff. “We took some samples for them but the FBI never even sent anyone over to pick them up.”
"Nobody knows nothing."
Had the FBI been completely uninterested?
“Well they seemed to be,” Harris admitted. “Especially after they said the men were here legally. The FBI actually said the two were here legally. It wasn’t until the INS called Tuesday that we found out they weren’t.”
What were two Israeli reservist/movers doing in backwater Mars Hill, N.C.?
“That’s a pretty good question,” said the Sheriff. “Their excuse was the truck was full and they had to stop and pick another load up. But that part don’t make sense to me. I can’t get it through my mind why they were unloading some junk there so they could go pick some more up somewhere else.”
The Israeli ‘movers’ rented a storage locker at Triple AAA Storage outside Mars Hill before their arrest. How had they found it? Had they just driven by?
The answer is: nobody knows. “Its sort of off the way,” said the Sheriff.
Soprano's Visit Andy in Mayberry
We visited Triple AAA Storage of Mars Hill North Carolina on a fine Spring day in the Appalachians, and can confirm its remote location. The facility’s manager, a man named ‘George,’ told us, of the two Israelis, “They were joyriding, and it cost ‘em. They said they was, at least that’s what I heard one of ‘em tell the sheriff.”
He referred any other questions to the facility’s owner, who was, George said, “Sal Annone from New Jersey. He bought the business three or four years back.”
A 'Salvatore Annone' owns a number of North Carolina businesses, a search of corporation records indicated. We asked George if we could speak to Mr. Annone, but were told he has an unlisted phone. Employees are forbidden to give it out. Was Sal Annone the Israelis point of contact with some other organization?
The Sheriff's investigation, halted by the involvement of the FBI, had been unaware of the reason the Israelis stopped at Triple AAA Storage, and of the recent (last September) ownership change there.
No matter how it was considered, the case seemed full of “anomalies.” Shmuel Dahan, for example, listed an address in swanky Miami Beach, and had more than $12,000 in his personal bank account. “That sort of caught my attention,” said the Sheriff.
A local reporter who overheard lawmen discussing Shmuel’s bank account later told us, “My brother delivered furniture all through college, and I don’t think he made $12,000 the whole time. Where was this kid getting the money?”
Aristotle, St Paul & 'foreigners'
A few of the '‘mysteries’ seemed faintly humorous. “What’s the name of that guy that kept calling all last week?” Sheriff Harris asked an assistant.
“Guy,” she replied. The Sheriff grimaced. “They work for a guy named ‘Guy.’ G-U-Y, he told us.
We wondered: Did 'Guy' have a last name?
The Sheriff grinned again. “He never said. But I’ve checked a lot of cars out in the County, and in over thirteen years I’ve never pulled over anyone with an Israeli driver’s license. I’d certainly never expect to see somebody like that on that old road.”
“There aren’t many foreigners here; they kick them right out,” said Sarah Nicols, a waitress at the Aeropagas restaurant in Mars Hill. “They don’t like foreigners around here."
Over a salad we learned about the curious history of Mars Hill from 'Dino the Greek,' the café’s owner. “The ancient meaning of Aeropagas is Ares, or Mars, Hill,” he told us. “It’s a place in Athens right under the Acropolis, where philosophers would speak. Hundreds of years after Aristotle spoke there, St Paul addressed the Athenians from Mars Hill.”
The Founding Fathers of the town had decided on its name in the 1850’s, after re-tracing St Paul’s steps through the Mediterranean, and stopping at the Aeropagas (Mars Hill.) “They were religious scholars,” Dino explained. “They founded the Southern Baptist college that is still in town today.”
"When people lie, its always for a reason"
Fueling law enforcement suspicions of the two Israelis is their clear belief that the two men were lying.
"I know when they tell that they didn’t see me behind them, it has to be a lie,” said Harris. “They said, at first, that they were going to Boston to take some furniture. Then later on we found out it was West Virginia. And all that their truck was packed with was some used furniture so old it doesn't seem anybody would pay to move it."
But, couldn't it all have been just a really horrible mistake? Maybe the Israeli military reservists/movers just hadn't heard the police sirens... “Oh no he had to see me,” said the Sheriff. “The siren was going…. I could see him in the mirror looking back at me.“
"People at a big fish fry came out to the front porch
when they heard the sirens, and seen the blue lights. They
all saw the truck go by, saw me go by. One man seen the
bottle come out of the truck, and the rest saw it turning in
the road after the truck went by."
"There’s no doubt about the fact they threw the liquid out of their truck. And they didn’t stop when they should have. I would have been happier if they’d said, ‘yes, the bottle was ours.’ That would have relieved my mind. But they still say they didn’t throw it out. They still say they didn’t see me behind them, even though they pled guilty to evading arrest.
The Sheriff shrugged fatalistically. "I was asked by a reporter today about my impression of the case. I said I can’t really give an answer to that. There are still a lot of questions to be answered."
The incident must be seen as extremely troubling, especially in light of the fact that at least sixty Israelis were detained in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack. Just like the 'NASCAR Israelis' in Tennessee, most were in their early twenties, and fresh out of the Israeli military. And since then there have been regular credible reports of suspected Israeli intelligence agents around the U.S., posing—most famously until now—as "art students."
Among this particular set of young Israelis in the U.S., the term of choice currently appears to be "'mover."
Interestingly, the Israeli-owned company the men worked for, Summit Movers, is much-written about on the Web, and allegedly has had approximately twenty insurance policy cancellations in their short three years of existence, as well as being allegedly implicated in the Israeli-run "scam" moving company scandal in Miami which the FBI seems always jes' a step or two slow in closing down.
In truth, after our journey to Mayberry all we're really sure of is that the arrested Israelis were observant Jews. We learned that courtesy of a nice elderly lady at the jail who brings the prisoners their meals. In one of the few decisively-factual statements we heard, she told us, “They don’t eat pork. I think we got them fish & chips.”
- Daniel Hopsicker is the author of Barry & 'the boys: The CIA, the Mob and America's Secret History. About the author. - Email the author.
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