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February 16, 2002
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Police Arrest Man Found with Box Cutters at Lambert Airport

by David, Scott, Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The family of a man arrested at Lambert Airport after police said he tried to carry two box cutters aboard a flight to Las Vegas said he's innocent man who was on his way to a trade show.

Joubin Kalimian, 33, of Great Neck, N.Y., was arrested Friday around 8:30 a.m. at Lambert. He remained in custody late Friday night after making an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on charges of attempting to carry on an aircraft a concealed, dangerous weapon.

"We currently have no reason to believe that this was an attempt to hijack the airplane or commit any terrorist related activity," said U.S. Attorney Raymond Gruender.

Kalimian's sister, Jacklin Shamash, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for Saturday's editions that her brother was headed to Las Vegas to join his brother Joseph Kalimian, where they planned to work a booth at a fashion industry trade show.

"There is no reason for him to be arrested," Shamash said. "He's such an innocent boy. He took it (box cutters) to open the boxes."

However, Shamash said she understood why authorities reacted the way they did after finding the box cutters, the same kind of cutting blade believed used by the men who hijacked and later crashed four planes on Sept. 11.

"They are doing it for us," Shamash said. "They just got the wrong person."

Federal officials said Kalimian boarded American Airlines flight 2947 from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Las Vegas on Friday. When the airplane made a scheduled stop in St. Louis, Kalimian got off the plane along with other passengers.

When he attempted to reboard the flight to continue to Las Vegas, Kalimian was selected for a random security check at the gate, said Airport Director Leonard Griggs. During the check, two box cutters were discovered in a pocket of Kalimian's clothing, officials said.

According to Gruender's office, Kalimian later said he knew he was carrying the box cutters, but was in a hurry and had hoped they would not be found. At his court appearance Friday, Kalimian told U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Ann Medler he was worried about losing his job if he didn't make it to Las Vegas.

"I'm a big fan of working," Medler said. "I don't want you to lose your job, either."

But she said, in the wake of Sept. 11, having box cutters on a passenger airplane "is a very, very serious offense."

Kalimian also told authorities a third box cutter had been found by a security screener in New York before he boarded the flight to St. Louis.

American and its security screening company at LaGuardia are investigating the incident and one security screener has been taken off duty for retraining, the company said in a statement.

Griggs said Kalimian, while off his plane, never left the secure concourse area at Lambert.

"FBI officials and airport police conducted a joint investigation determining that there had been no breech of security at Lambert," Griggs said in a statement.

Kalimian's family said he is a U.S. citizen who immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago, along with his parents, brother and sister, as Jewish refugees fleeing Iran. Gruender's office said Kalimian is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.






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