Watertown, MA – Raids by federal agents in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey on Thursday are focused on a system of “cash couriers” who bring money into the United States from overseas, a source close to the investigation said.
Thursday’s raids stemmed from the investigation into the failed car bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square on May 1, but investigators have not conclusively determined whether the courier system was tied to that plot, the source told CNN.
Some of that money is thought to have been made available to finance operations like the abortive Times Square attack. The source says two individuals have been under surveillance at least since Wednesday, but could not confirm that they were the two individuals arrested in the raids Thursday.
The source says there is no direct evidence linking those under surveillance to the courier system, but they are being investigated for possible links. The man charged in connection with the Times Square attack, Faisal Shahzad, continues to provide information to investigators, the source added.
Investigators were searching locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts, and in New York and New Jersey, a federal law enforcement source said.
A printing shop in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was also among the targets of Thursday’s raids, a federal law enforcement source said.
Gail Marcinkiewicz, an FBI spokeswoman in Boston, said the searches “do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or any plot against the United States.”
The Justice Department released a statement saying that Thursday’s searches “are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing.”
During the searches, officials detained two people for “alleged immigration violations,” Marcinkiewicz said. The two have no direct connection to the Times Square bombing investigation, and their arrests were considered “collateral,” a second federal law enforcement source said.
The two are from Pakistan, according to a U.S. official. One is a so-called “visa overstay.” The other was in the process of being removed from the United States, but had not yet been ordered removed, as he was attempting to adjust his status so that he could stay.
Both were picked up in Massachusetts, the official said, but he did not have more specifics. Both are being processed in Boston, the official said.
Later Thursday, a U.S. official told CNN a third person had been arrested on immigration charges.
One of the searches unfolded in Brookline, Massachusetts, where police were helping the FBI search a Mobil gas station on Harvard Street, said Lt. Philip Harrington of the Brookline Police Department.
Video from CNN affiliate WHDH-TV of Boston showed apparent law-enforcement officers at the gas station. They were examining a parked gray four-door sedan, its two front doors and trunk open.
Diane Chung, who manages a Japanese fusion restaurant across from the gas station, said investigators were swarming the scene when she got to the restaurant around 9:30 a.m. She said the gas station was completely blocked off.
She said she hadn’t seen authorities bringing anyone out of the gas station and hadn’t seen them enter any other businesses in the area.
Michael Sobelman, owner of Michael’s Deli on Harvard Street, took a stroll down the street to check out what he said was rare commotion along the retail and commercial stretch.
“You can see them taking stuff out,” he said. “You’d never have thunk something like this is going on.”
News media and police packed the area as three or four helicopters hovered over the scene. Sobelman said he saw the FBI load vehicles with material from the gas station.
“I’m shocked that it could happen in an affluent community like this,” Sobelman said. “I tip my hat to the FBI and praise them for their work and their diligence and looking behind the scenes into everything.”
Another raid reportedly happened in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photos from Watertown showed yellow police crime scene tape around a large white Colonial-style house. The photos were taken by WickedLocal.com, a local news website.
One photo showed a man in an FBI shirt talking with two other men. Another showed a man walking out of the house holding a plastic bag that appeared to contain an electronic or computer-related device or accessory.
CNN affiliate WCVB-TV reported that the two arrests happened in Watertown.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani American, is the only person charged in the May 1 attempted bombing at Times Square.
He was arrested while trying to fly out of New York two days after he allegedly attempted to set off a car bomb in the always-crowded tourist hotspot. The bomb failed to detonate.
Shahzad has been charged with five counts in connection with the case.
According to court documents, he admitted to law enforcement officials that he attempted to detonate the bomb and that he recently received bomb-making training in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Court documents also said that Shahzad returned to the United States via a one-way ticket from Pakistan on February 3. He had told immigration officials upon his return that he had been visiting his parents in Pakistan for the previous five months, the complaint said.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad was working with the Pakistani Taliban.