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Telephone bomb threat suspect tied to other cases, sources say

  • Story Highlights
  • Two federal officials: Suspect is Portuguese citizen Allan Sharif, 27
  • Sources: Sharif tied to Miami Beach bank robbery; wire fraud in New York
  • Officials looking for Sharif; the FBI refuses to comment on suspect's identity
  • Sources: Sharif tied to threats to at least 24 banks, stores in 15 states
  • Next Article in U.S. »
From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The man suspected in the recent rash of telephoned bomb threats to businesses across the United States has been tied to other crimes, including a Miami Beach, Florida, bank robbery and a wire fraud case in New York, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

Wal-Mart employees gather outside a store in Newport, Rhode Island, after a bomb threat.

Two federal officials familiar with the investigation said the suspect is 27-year-old Portuguese citizen Allan Sharif.

CNN has previously reported the person responsible for the threats was believed to be in Portugal.

"We thought we got him over the weekend, but it turns out we didn't," said one federal law enforcement source who asked not to be identified.

However, a second official said the reports of Sharif's near-capture were untrue.

But both officials agreed Sharif is the man they want.

The FBI, which is leading the investigation into the threats, refused to comment on the identity of the suspect.

Authorities have tied telephoned threats to at least 24 banks and stores in at least 15 states to Sharif and have confirmed that in some cases businesses paid ransoms in the face of the bomb threats, the sources told CNN.

Federal investigators said a bank heist in Miami Beach in March may have marked the beginning of the telephone extortion attempts.

In that case, authorities said an alleged accomplice walked into the bank with a suitcase, as a man telephoned from Portugal demanding the tellers give his on-the-scene associate $20,000. The alleged accomplice was arrested and faces federal charges in Florida.

The FBI said the recent flurry of threatening calls from Portugal appears to have started in Portland, Oregon, in mid-August. The most recent calls were received Friday by a Wal-Mart store and grocery outlets in Ohio.

Sharif is not a stranger to federal law enforcement officials. The Secret Service sought him on wire fraud charges for which he was indicted in New York in 2005, authorities said. The fugitive-hunting U.S. Marshals Service also acknowledged their interest in pursuing Sharif but declined to provide details.

Federal authorities said they were getting good international cooperation in the case, and although there have been no bombs discovered and no injuries, each of the threatening calls has disrupted businesses and required intensive investigation by local police and federal agents. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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