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FBI Says Oil Field Worker Falsely Claimed He Was Attacked

FBI Says Oil Field Worker Falsely Claimed He Was Attacked

Posted - Feb. 21, 2003 at 4:48 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An oil field worker accused of lying about being attacked by armed men who asked questions about the remote southeastern Utah oil field's operations was charged Friday with making false statements to federal agents.

Gregory Lee, 26, of the Navajo Nation's Aneth Chapter, was to appear Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to hear the charges.

U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner said he expected a grand jury to hand up an indictment next week.

Lee's report late Wednesday night to the San Juan County sheriff's office characterized his encounter with armed assailants as a possible terrorist threat.

That prompted investigations and patrols Thursday by Navajo Nation police, San Juan County sheriff's deputies, personnel from the Utah Homeland Security Task Force, MobilExxon security experts and the FBI.

"The story didn't seem all that credible but we had to investigate it," task force member Mitch McKee said Friday.

Warner said he would consider seeking restitution. "Quite frankly, the draining of precious resources ... will not be tolerated," he said. "This is not a joke, this is not a prank."

According to the probable cause statement filed Friday in federal court, Lee, an ExxonMobil employee working in a gasoline processing facility in Aneth, Utah, told San Juan County authorities that shortly after arriving for work at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, he felt a steel object pressed against his neck.

Lee told deputies that a man with a thick accent asked if the facility was a nuclear installation.

Lee told agents he could see the reflections of two men in the office window, and that one carried a handgun and the other an AK-47 automatic rifle. Both men were dressed in black and appeared to be middle eastern, Lee said, adding that one of them spoke in what could have been Arabic.

Lee told agents he felt a blow to the head and fell to the ground, where one of the men kicked him before both left the office.

They left in a black Chevrolet Tahoe SUV with two others who had been roaming the facility yard, Lee told investigators.

On Thursday, FBI agents asked Lee to take a polygraph exam. Lee said he needed to go to a medical clinic. Once there, he complained of severe head pain.

While Lee was undergoing a CAT scan, a Navajo criminal investigator spoke with Lee's mother and requested her help in getting at the truth.

Lee returned to the room where his mother was waiting and admitted the entire incident was fabricated. He claimed he had frequent nightmares about a terrorist attack and wanted to see what police would do if a terrorist incident were reported.

The charging document said Lee was then taken back to Montezuma Creek, Utah, where he wrote a confession that the report was a hoax.

Lee had minor injuries, which are believed to have been self-inflicted, said FBI spokesman George Dougherty.

Aneth is on the Navajo reservation about 380 miles southeast of Salt Lake City at the sparsely inhabited Four Corners juncture of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Three schools -- an elementary and high school in Montezuma Creek and a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school in Aneth -- were put on emergency lockdown Thursday, but the pupils were allowed to go home at the end of the school day.

Ivan Tsosie, acting chief of the Navajo Nation Criminal Investigations Department, told the Gallup Independent that Lee said he dreamed terrorists attacked him while he was working the graveyard shift -- a shift he was afraid to work.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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