( Reuters ) - An international fugitive was indicted on terrorism charges alleging he made phone calls from Portugal to U.S. banks and threatened to blow them up unless they wired him money, according to court documents unsealed on Tuesday.
The suspect, Allan Guedes Sharif, has also been linked to nearly two dozen phone calls to U.S. supermarkets, department stores and Wal-Marts in which the caller threatened to set off bombs unless employees sent him thousands of dollars, according to media reports.
The caller gave details that made the employees think he was watching them. In some cases he ordered them to take off all their clothes, according to accounts from Maine to Missouri. Some frightened employees did send money but it was unclear whether any stripped naked.
The charges made public on Tuesday involve only Florida banks but prosecutors said they and the FBI had been in contact with their counterparts in the other states.
"He is charged with threatening to blow up a bank and with threatening police officers," said Alex Acosta, the U.S. Attorney for southern Florida. "This is an individual that needs to be taken off the streets."
Sharif remains free in Portugal, but the U.S. government last month requested his extradition to face the Florida charges.
A U.S. citizen born in New York to a Portuguese mother, Sharif fled to Portugal after he was indicted in 2005 in New York on federal fraud and robbery charges in connection with money transfers. He claimed Portuguese citizenship and Portugal refused to extradite him for trial in New York, investigators said.
A Florida grand jury indicted him in September on charges of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and three counts of threatening acts of terrorism across national boundaries, each punishable by 10 years in prison.
The indictment itself gives no detail about the crimes, but other court documents link some of the charges to a bizarre bank robbery attempt in Miami Beach, Florida, in March.
In that case, a Portuguese man named Paulo Almeida admitted he went to the First Commercial Bank with a suitcase to collect $20,000 that he believed to be illegal profits from a scam he and Sharif worked in Portugal.
According to an FBI affidavit, a bank teller received a call from another man who said this was a robbery and threatened to kill police and hostages in nearby buildings unless she put $20,000 in Almeida's suitcase.
Police shut down streets, locked down schools and searched nearby buildings for hours but found no hostages or bombs.
Almeida followed the teller's instructions to sit on a couch and wait for the money, and was promptly arrested.
He pleaded guilty last month to reduced charges of conspiring to transport stolen money and agreed to cooperate with investigators. He faces up to five years in prison.
The other Florida charges against Sharif involve other phone calls in which banks were threatened with bombs unless Almeida was released.