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New charges filed in two ex-USF students' explosives case

TAMPA — A federal grand jury has indicted Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed on new charges, less than two weeks before the former University of South Florida students are scheduled to go on trial for illegally transporting explosive materials across state lines.

The seven-count indictment, filed Tuesday, supersedes a two-count indictment handed up Aug. 29. That indictment charged both men with illegally transporting explosive material and charged Mohamed with demonstrating how to make an explosive device.

The new indictment also charges Megahed, 22, and Mohamed, 26, with possessing an unregistered firearm or a destructive device.

Mohamed is charged in the new indictment with illegally possessing a firearm, which violates his student visa. Karim Moussaoui, 28, was found guilty at trial this month on a similar charge. He's in jail awaiting sentencing.

Megahed, a legal resident, can legally posses a firearm.

"I don't think it changes anything," Adam Allen, Megahed's public defender, said of the new indictment. "We believe our defense is equally as strong in this indictment as it was with the previous indictment."

Mohamed's attorneys declined comment.

Megahed and Mohamed have been in custody since their Aug. 4 arrest near Goose Creek, S.C. A sheriff's deputy stopped them for speeding and searched their car when he became suspicious. He found what prosecutors have described as incomplete pipe bombs. The defendants have said they were homemade fireworks.

Mohamed is charged with all seven counts of the new indictment. If convicted of all the charges, he could go to prison between 10 years and life. If convicted on the charges of transporting explosive materials and possessing an unregistered firearm or destructive device, Megahed could get a maximum of 10 years in prison on each count. An arraignment on the new charges is set for Monday.

The pair is scheduled to go to trial on the explosives charge on April 28. Mohamed is scheduled for trial May 12 on the charge of demonstrating how to make an explosive device.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

New charges filed in two ex-USF students' explosives case 04/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 11:02pm]
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