FBI reveals tools used to track Muslim in terror case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit – — FBI counterterrorism agents Friday revealed undercover surveillance tools used to track an American Muslim who allegedly bought illegal grenades in apparent preparation for an unspecified attack.

Sebastian Gregerson

FBI agents installed a tracking device on Detroit resident Sebastian Gregerson’s brown 1999 Dodge Neon in March and had monitored a cell phone since May, according to court records obtained by The Detroit News.

The tools were outlined in search warrant documents filed in federal court Friday. The documents were filed one day after a grand jury indicted Gregerson, 29, aka Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl, on explosives charges that could send him to prison for up to 10 years. He was arrested last month and is jailed pending trial in federal court.

The four-page indictment, filed Friday, makes no mention of terrorism and did not provide more insight into why Gregerson had several CDs in his possession marked “Anwar al-Awlaki,” the al-Qaida leader who radicalized underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The surveillance tools played a key role in the 16-month FBI investigation that included several recorded conversations between Gregerson and an undercover agent, according to court records.

Earlier this year, FBI agents received a judge’s approval to install a tracking device on the Neon, which was typically parked alongside Gregerson’s home in the 8300 block of Schaefer Highway, south of Joy Road.

Agents installed the device in broad daylight — 3:40 p.m. on March 9, according to court records.

The Neon is registered to Gregerson’s parents, according to the Michigan Secretary of State Office.

The tracking device helped FBI agents follow Gregerson to stores around Metro Detroit as he allegedly amassed an arsenal of weapons, including seven rifles, two AK-47s, a shotgun, handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Two months later, in May, FBI agents started tracking the cell phone’s location, court records show.

It is unclear who owns the cell phone, which has an area code for Baltimore, Maryland.

That is notable because when FBI agents arrested Gregerson and raided his Detroit home July 31, they seized a thumb drive hidden inside an Islamic Society of Baltimore envelope, according to sealed search warrant documents obtained by The News.

The envelope was initially described by the FBI in the search warrant document as an “Islamic Secret of Baltimore” envelope. After The News asked the FBI to elaborate, an agent revised the search warrant document to read “Islamic Society of Baltimore.”

The Islamic Society of Baltimore is the same location President Barack Obama visited in February in what was the first presidential visit to an American mosque.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have declined to talk about the search or any ties Gregerson might have to the Islamic society.

The married father of twin 4-year-old boys previously lived in Maryland and his wife’s prior addresses include a Baltimore apartment two miles from the mosque, according to a public records database.

Mosque President Muhammad Jameel did not return a call seeking comment.

In Detroit, Gregerson kept a low profile in the Muslim community.

“Never heard of him,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I asked around and none of the Muslim leadership has heard of this guy before.

“I’m curious to see what he was supposedly plotting or if he just had a bunch of arms.”

While raiding Gregerson’s home, agents also found CDs marked “Anwar al-Awlaki,” the al-Qaida recruiter who met with Abdulmutallab before the failed Christmas Day 2009 terror attack on a Detroit-bound plane, according to sealed search warrant records.

The contents of the al-Awlaki CDs are unclear, but the late, radical U.S.-born cleric was known for Internet sermons that helped inspire attacks on the U.S.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office would not discuss the contents of the CDs.

Gregerson, a Target employee who converted to Islam after high school, was arrested July 31 after buying five fragmentation grenades from an undercover FBI agent and talking about carrying out an unspecified attack. Gregerson also expressed interest in buying an illegal Claymore mine, which contains C4 explosive and fires steel balls 110 yards.

Gregerson is a gun enthusiast, hunter and survivalist who has no criminal record, his lawyer said during a recent court hearing. The firearms were purchased legally, his lawyer added.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub determined Gregerson was a danger to the community and ordered him jailed pending trial.

“What does one do with these items? What does one do with a grenade?” Majzoub said. “Why does anybody want to purchase a Claymore mine, which is only used to cause death and destruction?”

Gregerson has not been charged with a terror-related crime, though federal prosecutors have filed a sealed document that “goes way beyond” allegations of purchasing a destructive device and receiving explosive materials, his lawyer previously said.

rsnell@detnews.com