Flight school may have charged suspected terrorists extra rent

VENICE — Two men suspected of terrorizing the heart of America this week resided in a Venice apartment earlier this year.

While attending flight school at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Alshehhi, 23, lived with four other Middle Eastern students near Venice Airport at Sandpiper Apartments.

The six Middle Eastern men shared a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in unit 26, said Charles Grapentine, manager of the apartments.

Huffman Aviation rented the unit at $550 a month, Grapentine said.

"Could be," said Rudi Dekkers, owner of Huffman Aviation, when asked to confirm the housing details.

The flight school then subletted the unit to its students, Grapentine said.

"Could be," Dekkers said.

Huffman Aviation charged each of the six Middle Eastern flight students $225 a month to live in the apartment, Grapentine said.

"Could be," Dekkers said.

The flight school then netted $800 a month by renting the apartment at a higher cost to the students.

Students were charged an additional $50 fee for cleaning costs, Grapentine said.

It is unknown how long the six men resided at Sandpiper Apartments before leaving in early January of this year. The complex's owner, Vicky Kyser, told the Sun she is turning the leases over to the FBI.

Dekkers said his flight schools in Venice and Naples, Fla., did not profit by charging the students extra rent, as he consistently loses several thousand dollars a year.

Atta and Alshehhi attended the flight school from July 6 to Dec. 21, 2000, in order to acquire a multi-engine commercial license, Dekkers said.

Atta wrote personal checks totaling $18,700 for flying lessons and Alshehhi spent a total of $20,900, Dekkers said.

Despite its close proximity to the Venice Airport, Sandpiper Apartments no longer rents to Huffman Aviation, Grapentine said, because of the Middle Eastern flight students' unruly behavior.

"I don't let any students stay over here anymore," Grapentine said.

Atta and Alshehhi also stayed in a South Venice home for roughly one week in July 2000.

Charles and Drucilla Voss showed the two suspected terrorists the door due to their rude and disrespectful behavior, the Vosses said.