A man who is accused of repeatedly committing fraud – while he was working undercover as an FBI informant on a terrorism sting in Palm Beach County – is expected to plead guilty Friday, court records show.
Mohammed Agbareia, who was classified as a “national security asset” by the FBI, was arrested in June on six federal fraud charges spanning the 10 years since 2007.
Authorities said he defrauded victims out of more than $300,000 since 2011 by posing as a “stranded traveler” and preying on people’s goodwill and trust.
Federal prosecutors say Agbareia went right back to committing fraud almost immediately after he got released from prison early for a prior fraud conviction – and while he was providing undercover help to the FBI,.
Agbareia, 51, admitted to FBI agents on several occasions that he was still committing crimes and continued doing so “despite numerous warnings to cease,” prosecutors said.
They said Agbareia resumed operating his lucrative fraud in 2007 and continued doing so until the day before he was arrested on June 21.
Prosecutors, the FBI and defense attorneys in the terrorism and fraud cases have all either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. The prosecution asked judges to seal many of the proceedings in both cases, citing classified information linked to national security issues.
But prosecutors recently told the judge in the terrorism sting case that they have decided not to call one of the undercover FBI informants as a witness in the trial. They did not identify Agbareia by name but several sources confirmed he was the witness in question.
Two of the men accused in the terrorism sting case have already pleaded guilty.
The third suspect, Gregory Hubbard, 54, a former U.S. Marine and sculptor from West Palm Beach, has been locked up for more than a year on allegations that carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to charges he tried to help Islamic State terrorists and tried to go fight with them in Syria.
Hubbard’s trial is scheduled for trial in April in federal court in West Palm Beach. His defense attorneys, who also have not identified Agbareia by name, have asked a judge to throw out the allegations against Hubbard because of what they called “outrageous conduct” by the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Agbareia started working as an informant after he was extradited from Canada to Alabama and pleaded guilty to operating a similar fraud in 2006, court records show.
Investigators said Agbareia has repeatedly admitted he called potential victims he was supposed to meet, told them his wallet and plane tickets were stolen and asked them to wire him money.
Muslim groups had spent years helping investigators to try to catch him and lobbying for his extradition. Officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Agbareia has been defrauding victims around the world since about 1986.
In 2006, he admitted that he operated a fraud that relied on the Islamic tradition of helping travelers in distress. The Palestinian man was sentenced to two years in federal prison, ordered to pay $91,000 in restitution and was supposed to be deported to his native Israel after serving his punishment.
But he got a break and was released early after federal prosecutors in Alabama petitioned the judge.
Court records in the Alabama case show the judge agreed to reduce Agbareia’s prison term to one year, in response to a sealed request from the government.
After his release in November 2006, he moved to the West Palm Beach area in October 2007 and began providing information “pertaining to national security” to federal investigators, court records show.
Agbareia, who has no legal immigration status in the U.S., has been jailed in Palm Beach County since his arrest in June.
The Department of Homeland Security allowed him to remain in the U.S. on “deferred status” and he was allowed travel to Israel to obtain a new passport in 2011 and return to the U.S., prosecutors said in court.
The FBI called him a “national security asset” and praised his “usefulness as a provider of intelligence to the FBI” and work as an “informer” in court records filed in 2009.