KANSAS CITY, Mo. —A woman who once dated Khalid Ouazzani said his charm and intelligence first attracted her to him.
It was his reaction to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that made her turn away from the Kansas City man, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to supporting the al-Qaida terrorist network.
"He got very weird after 9/11," said the woman, who knew Ouazzani while living in New York a decade ago. The Kansas City Star is not using her name to protect her identity and that of her family.
She and others who knew Ouazzani say he was educated and well traveled, had a good sense of humor and was seemingly apolitical.
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Ouazzani, 32, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City to providing $23,500 to al-Qaida. He admitted that in 2008 he swore an oath of allegiance to the terrorist network. He also pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering charges.
The woman met Ouazzani in 2000 and said she did not recall him ever talking about politics.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, she said, Ouazzani began sending e-mails questioning how the attacks were portrayed in the public and media.
"He said, 'We're not hearing both sides in America,' " she said.
Then in an e-mail he sent to multiple people, he included graphic photographs of children killed in the Middle East, indicating justification for the Sept. 11 attacks.
She cut off contact with him after that, she said, and doesn't know when he moved to Kansas City.
Dennis Hogan, who met Ouazzani in Kansas City in 2006, described him as "clean-cut, bright and articulate."
"This guy was educated and this guy was very, very smooth," said Hogan, who rented space on Truman Road to Ouazzani for a used car parts business.
Hogan said he allowed his "smart aleck" nature to come out when they first met.
"I asked him if he was a terrorist," Hogan said.
Ouazzani, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Morocco, was not pleased.
"He glared at me and said, 'Are you?' " Hogan recalled.
He said Ouazzani and another business tenant continually clashed and he was forced to be a peacemaker between them.
"They took turns aggravating each other," Hogan said. "I had more problems with these two than anybody else in my whole life combined."
Ouazzani also had trouble paying his taxes, according to federal and Missouri records.
Ouazzani faces about $35,000 in federal and state income tax liens, The Star found. He has Jackson County property tax bills of nearly $44,000, records show.
Those debts were adding up, according to federal court documents, while Ouazzani was using fraudulent means to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars from area lending institutions. About $300,000 of those funds, including the $23,500 he admitted furnishing to al-Qaida, was wired to overseas banks, according to federal court documents.
An auto parts supplier sued Ouazzani in Jackson County Circuit Court because he owed about $2,000. But Ouazzani could not be served with court papers because he could not be found, and the lawsuit had to be dismissed, an employee said.
Hogan said that within a year of Ouazzani renting the space on Truman Road, he sold the business and disappeared. In his plea agreement filed Wednesday in federal court, Ouazzani admitted that he sent $6,500 from that business sale to al-Qaida.
Stevie Williams met Ouazzani in early 2009 when Ouazzani joined a Grandview community center where Williams was a personal trainer.
"He was a perfectly nice guy when I trained him," Williams said. "He was always upbeat and always had a joke to tell."
Williams, too, said he had never heard Ouazzani discuss his political views.
"I was basically floored," he said of reading about Ouazzani's terrorism link.