I-Team: RI suspect tries to flee US, caught on Boston plane

Federal agents captured a Rhode Island man aboard a flight headed for France and Lebanon a few weeks before he was to begin serving a two-year prison sentence for transporting contraband cigarettes and committing fraud.

Federal court documents obtained by the NBC 10 I-Team showed 27-year-old Najd Khalil, of Pawtucket, had removed his electronic bracelet Saturday. Probation officials alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Agents quickly figured out Khalil had bought a plane ticket. His flight was scheduled to leave Logan International Airport in Boston for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France and then onto Beirut, Lebanon.

Khalil was checked in and had boarded the plane and was seated in seat 41A when customs agents removed him from the aircraft.

Court records showed Khalil told a federal officer he was attempting to run from the U.S. because he was afraid to go to prison.

In May 2013, Khalil, his two brothers and four other suspects were arrested in a pre-dawn raid of Providence convenience stores.

An NBC 10 I-Team camera rolled as federal agents and state police seized $100,000 in cash, four vehicles and large amounts of illegal cigarettes.

Their elaborate scheme was unveiled in a federal indictment which said the group bought more than 30,000 cigarette cartons from a Virginia-based Sam's Club using phony corporate accounts for businesses that never opened. They in turn moved the Virginia cigarettes to Rhode Island and sold them at full retail price, skirting the state of more than $1 million in sales tax, while pocketing huge profits.

Khalil was convicted of transporting contraband cigarettes, food stamp fraud, money laundering and Social Security fraud.

Court records show Khalil was able to get an emergency passport from the Lebanese embassy in New York, even though he was set to begin a federal prison sentence in a few weeks.

The I-Team also learned that Khalil lied to the federal judge hearing his case on Monday. Khalil initially told Judge William Smith that a taxi driver had taken his ankle bracelet back to his apartment. He later recanted.

Unfortunate timing will bring Khalil's brothers, Bassam Khalil and Wissam Khalil, before Judge Smith for their sentences on Thursday. Najd will be back before Judge Smith on Friday to face possible sanctions, including criminal contempt. His prison status and classification could also change.

After his prison term, Khalil was to be deported.

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