PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When model airplane seller Mike Beaulieu kept getting calls from a man seeking an unnecessarily large plane, the 72-year-old Presque Isle man had no idea he was dealing with a suspected terrorist.
Until reporters started calling for information, Beaulieu didn’t know the prospective buyer was Rezwan Ferdaus of Massachusetts, who has been accused of plotting to blow up the Pentagon by crashing remote control model airplanes packed with explosives into the building.
Ferdaus since has been arrested and pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
Beaulieu’s contact with Ferdaus started when the suspected terrorist, who called himself Dave Winfield, dialed the Presque Isle man after browsing Beaulieu’s model plane website.
“He just was looking for an airplane he could fly with his son. That was his cover story,” Beaulieu said Thursday. “When he called, I tried to discourage him from spending that money because it was their first airplane. The airplane he was looking for could run $5,000 to $8,000. It just didn’t make any sense for someone buying an airplane for the first time for his son. Had they crashed it, it would have been all over.”
Instead, Beaulieu tried to convince Ferdaus to buy a smaller $200 aircraft, better for first-timers. It sounds like bad business, but Beaulieu said he was trying to get out of selling the bigger 5-foot wingspan jets anyway because he wasn’t making money off them. He no longer carries them in the garage at his Presque Isle home, where the model airplane business is located.
Ferdaus called three more times, asking for the bigger jet, but in the end he didn’t buy anything from Beaulieu.
The Presque Isle man didn’t think much more about the calls until last week.
That’s when reporters from Boston started calling and asking questions about his model airplane website and whether he had any interaction with the suspected terrorist.
According to Presque Isle police Officer Kevin Reed, the reporters started calling after the affidavit concerning Ferdaus’ arrest was released to the press. Federal investigators said in the roughly 40-page court document that Ferdaus used Beaulieu’s website to research which model airplane could best be packed with explosives to blow up the Pentagon. After the reporters shared this information with Beaulieu, he contacted Presque Isle police to clarify his involvement with the suspected terrorist.
According to Reed, his department looked over the affidavit and called the FBI to learn what they could about Beaulieu’s connection to the terrorist threat. When the local police found out the case didn’t really have much of a link to The County, they wrapped up their work.
“It’s interesting because we’re northern rural Maine,” Reed said. “We just made a couple phone calls. That was it.”
Beaulieu continues to sell model airplanes from his website, but said he has turned his focus to cockpit kits, civilian aircrafts and drawings.
Remembering Ferdaus’ calls, the Presque Isle man said: “I’ve been doing model airplanes for more than 50 years. I had never got a call like that before.”