nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Mashhandani (E.D. Va. Mar. 28, 2017) (immigration fraud prosecution involving Iraqi refugees and link to harm to US persons in Iraq in 2005)

March 28, 2017

DOJ’s press release appears below, and the criminal complaint/affidavit are attached:

WASHINGTON – Yousif Al Mashhandani (“Yousif”), 35, of Vienna, Virginia, and Adil Hasan, 38, of Burke, Virginia, who are full biological brothers, were arrested this morning. The third individual charged is Enas Ibrahim, 32, also of Burke, who is the wife of Hasan. Each are charged with attempting to obtain naturalization contrary to law. The defendants will have their initial appearance today in front of Magistrate Judge Ivan D. Davis at 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana J. Boente, Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field and Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Lechleitner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., made the announcement.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on Nov. 1, 2004, a U.S. citizen, identified as R.H., was kidnapped and held with other hostages for months in horrible conditions in an underground bunker. After a raid in 2005 freed the hostages, Majid Al Mashhadani (“Majid”), who is a full biological brother of Yousif and Hasan, was detained and admitted his complicity in the kidnapping of R.H.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Yousif was admitted into the U.S. as a refugee in 2008. In May 2013, Yousif resided in Vienna and applied for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. In connection with Yousif’s applications for citizenship, his fingerprints were taken. According to an FBI fingerprint specialist, analysis conducted in November 2013 determined that Yousif’s fingerprints match those found on a document at the underground bunker where forces rescued R.H. and others in Iraq in 2005.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Yousif, Hasan and Ibrahim are lawful permanent residents and have applied to naturalize and become U.S. citizens. On various applications and forms throughout their respective immigration processes, each has provided an extensive list of family members and information of their respective family trees; however, none listed any reference to Majid.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on March 4, 2016, FBI agents interviewed Yousif, Hasan and Ibrahim. When FBI agents asked Yousif why he failed to include reference to Majid on the family tree form, Yousif said he omitted reference to Majid because, when he was a refugee, he was told by others applying for refugee status that he would not be allowed into the U.S. if any immediate family members had a criminal background. Hasan admitted to FBI agents that Majid was his brother. Hasan and Ibrahim each admitted they discussed not including Majid’s name on their applications for refugee status because their connection to Majid might delay their ability to gain such status.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, to justify his application for refugee status, Yousif reported that in 2006, while working as an anti-corruption investigator for the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity in Iraq, he started receiving threats from a Shiite militia known as the "Al Mahdi Militia," in order to coerce Yousif to drop a particular corruption investigation. Yousif said that in May 2006, Hasan was kidnapped by the Al Mahdi Militia, and was released only after Yousif arranged to drop the investigation in question and helped pay a large ransom. Yousif said that after Hasan was released, he reopened the corruption investigation, only to flee to Jordon in October 2006 after his parents’ house was burned down.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, to justify his application for refugee status, Hasan provided sworn testimony that, in 2006, he had been kidnapped and tortured by members of the Al Mahdi Army and held for nearly a month. Hasan said he was released upon the payment of a ransom of $20,000. In an interview by FBI agents in April 2016, Hasan said he was threatened in Iraq on two occasions, but made no mention of being kidnapped, held hostage and tortured for nearly a month. In a subsequent interview in October 2016, FBI agents confronted Hasan about the discrepancy in his stories and Hasan admitted to making false statements and creating his persecution story.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes ICE/HSI and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon Kromberg and Collen Garcia for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

2017 03 28 Mashhadani Affidavit.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Maric (M.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2017) (fraudulent naturalization conviction and revocation of citizenship in case of Bosnian soldier)

March 27, 2017

This one probably is worth circulating in its own right (the defendant was convicted in absentia for war crimes in Bosnia involving abuse of prisoners), but it seems extra relevant in light of the suit DOJ filed last week to revoke the naturalized citizenship of AQ member Iyman Faris (in that this illustrates that denaturalization is not uncommon for those who fraudulently obtained citizenship). From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – A Jacksonville, Florida man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship by failing to disclose during his naturalization process his membership in the Bosnian Army and crimes that he committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian Conflict in the 1990s, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida.

Slobo Maric, 56, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard of the Middle District of Florida who also ordered his U.S. citizenship revoked. On July 18, 2016, Maric pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Klindt of the Middle District of Florida to one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization.

According to the plea agreement, in 1993, Maric served as a shift leader, the second in command to the warden, of a detention facility in Bosnia that housed captured Bosnian-Croat soldiers. Many of the guards in the facility routinely subjected detainees to serious physical abuse and humiliation. According to the plea agreement, Maric selected detainees for other guards to abuse; directly participated in abusing several prisoners; and sent prisoners on dangerous and deadly work details on the front line of the conflict. The Bosnian government charged Maric for his criminal conduct and, after Maric immigrated to the United States, Bosnia indicted and convicted Maric in absentia for war crimes against prisoners. According to the plea agreement, Maric knew about the Bosnian court proceedings, yet he failed to disclose the proceedings and lied about his conduct on his application for U.S. citizenship. Maric became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Oct. 31, 2002.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Jacksonville Field Office investigated the case under the supervision of the HSI Tampa Field Office with support from ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center.

Trial Attorney Clayton O’Connor and Historian David Rich of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Campion of the Middle District of Florida prosecuted the case.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Tajideen (D.D.C. Mar. 24, 2017) (extradition and IEEPA indictment of Lebanese businessman associated with Hezbollah)

March 24, 2017

I had not seen any terrorism-related IEEPA charges in some time (it’s been all 2339B and sometimes 2339A). Very interesting to see this one. Kassim Tajeddine is a significant figure in the global business network associated with Hezbollah, and he was subjected to IEEPA sanctions back in 2009. Last week he was detained by Moroccan authorities while transiting from Guinea to Beirut (see, e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/lebanese-businessman-wanted-by-us-detained-in-morocco/2017/03/16/dd71e53e-0a5d-11e7-bd19-fd3afa0f7e2a_story.html?utm_term=.73c67b971763), and now’s he’s on US soil and facing just-unsealed IEEPA and money-laundering charges. Press release is below:

WASHINGTON – Kassim Tajideen, a prominent financial supporter of the Hizballah terror organization, has been arrested and charged with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him because of his financial support of Hizballah.

Tajideen, 62, of Beirut, Lebanon, was arrested overseas on March 12, 2017, based on an 11-count indictment unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia following his arrival to the United States. Tajideen made his initial court appearance today before Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather.

The arrest and indictment are the result of a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The effort is part of DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets Hizballah’s global criminal support network – dubbed by the DEA as the Business Affairs Component (BAC) that operates as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hizaballah.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan of the Special Operations Division, and CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan made the announcement.

“Because of his support for Hizballah, a major international terrorist group, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Kassim Tajideen in 2009 that barred him from doing business with U.S. individuals and companies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Those sanctions are a powerful tool in our efforts to combat terrorists and those who would support them. Indeed, the sanctions posed such a significant threat to Tajideen’s extensive business interests that he allegedly went to great lengths to evade them by hiding his identity from the U.S. entities he did business with, and from the government agencies responsible for enforcing the sanctions. Thanks to the diligent work of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, we broke through the web of intermediaries Tajideen allegedly used to conceal his involvement, and he has been brought to the United States to face justice.”

“Kassim Tajideen is alleged to have willfully flouted U.S. sanctions that were based on his prior support for Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security McCord. “Those sanctions are designed to protect our national security and public safety by limiting terrorists’ access to resources, and this extradition sends a clear message that we are resolved to find and hold accountable those who violate these laws.”

“The investigation of this case and the arrest and extradition of this defendant demonstrates our commitment to enforcing vitally important sanctions laws that are in place to protect our national security and foreign policy interests,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Because of the hard work of law enforcement here and abroad, Kassim Tajideen will now face charges in an American courtroom.”

“Kassim Tajideen posed a direct threat to safety and stability around the world,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “A prominent money man for Hizballah, Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for their global terror network. DEA and our partners are unrelenting in our pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terror and criminal networks and their many facilitators who threaten the rule of law and innocent lives.”

The indictment charges Tajideen with one count of willfully conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, seven counts of unlawful transactions with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The indictment also indicates that the government will seek a forfeiture money judgment against the defendants equal to the value of any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to these offenses.

According to the indictment, Tajideen allegedly presided over a multi-billion-dollar commodity distribution business that operates primarily in the Middle East and Africa through a web of vertically integrated companies, partnerships and trade names. The indictment further alleges that Tajideen and others engaged in an elaborate scheme to engage in business with U.S. companies while concealing Tajideen’s involvement in those transactions.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control named Tajideen a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on May 27, 2009. This designation prohibits U.S. companies from transacting unlicensed business with Tajideen or any companies which are operated for his benefit – in essence stripping Tajideen’s global business empire of its ability to legally acquire goods from, or wire money into, the U.S. However, the indictment alleges that Tajideen restructured his business empire after the designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue conducting transactions with U.S. entities. Tajideen and others are alleged to have created new trade names and to have misrepresented his ownership in certain entities in order to conceal Tajideen’s association. The scheme allowed Tajideen’s companies to continue to illegally transact business directly with unwitting U.S. vendors, as well as to continue utilizing the U.S. financial and freight transportation systems to conduct wire transfers and move shipping containers despite the sanctions against Tajideen.

According to the indictment, between approximately July of 2013 until the present day, the conspirators illegally completed at least 47 individual wire transfers, totaling over approximately $27 million, to parties in the U.S. During the same time period, the conspirators caused dozens of illegal shipments of goods to leave U.S. ports for the benefit of Tajideen, without obtaining the proper licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Tajideen pleaded not guilty and was ordered held pending a detention hearing set for March 29.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This investigation was carried out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the DEA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center Counter Network Division, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice and Deborah Curtis and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline L. Barkett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Joseph Palazzo from the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

Participating investigative agencies in DEA’s Project Cassandra include the DEA’s New Jersey Field Division and Special Operations Division and various DEA country offices, as well as the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Faris (S.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 2017) (DENATURALIZATION SUIT AGAINST CONVICTED AQ SUPPORTER)

March 20, 2017

Buckle up, folks, DOJ just filed a civil suit to revoke the citizenship of Iyman Faris (currently serving a 20 year sentence for providing material support to al Qaeda). See 8 USC 1451 for the operative statute. I have no idea how accurate this is, but there is a Wikipedia page here addressing past instances of revocation (107 since 1979, it says).

The complaint is attached, the press release is below:

Faris Complaint to Revoke Naturalization.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Harun (E.D.N.Y. May 16, 2017) (guilty verdict in prosecution of AQ member)

March 17, 2017

A pretty remarkable fact pattern in this one, and yet another successful DOJ prosecution of an al Qaeda member. Note that this one could easily have been in a military commission had Harun been captured by U.S. personnel or had he been transferred to US control in other circumstances, but since he was instead arrested in Italy—and since Italy almost certainly forbade resort to a commission as a condition of the extradition—he ended up in civilian court instead. Seems extremely likely he’ll get a life sentence.

From DOJ’s press release:

Washington – Today, a jury returned its verdict convicting al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, 46, of multiple terrorism offenses including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan and conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. Harun traveled to Afghanistan in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001 where he joined al Qaeda, trained at al Qaeda training camps and participated in attacks on U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan in which two American service members were killed and others were seriously wounded in 2003. Harun also received training in explosives from an al Qaeda weapons expert and traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria intending to attack U.S. government facilities there.

The guilty verdict was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

“Harun is an al Qaeda operative who targeted U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities across two continents. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant and other jihadists attacked a U.S. military patrol in Afghanistan, resulting in the death of two American soldiers and the serious injury of others. Today’s guilty verdict ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for his acts of terrorism,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose hard work and dedication made this result possible.”

“As demonstrated by this case, the United States will be tireless in its efforts to hold al-Qaeda members accountable when they target American citizens serving their country abroad. We are firmly committed to bringing such terrorists to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde. Ms. Rohde expressed her grateful appreciation to the Department of Defense Army investigators, the Office of Military Commissions, the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office in Palermo, Italy, the Italian National Police, Guardia di Finanza and Carabinieri authorities for their support and assistance.

“We hope the verdict today shows the public the FBI New York JTTF and our law enforcement partners are still arresting, charging and trying operatives for al-Qaeda 15 years after 9/11 because we won’t give up the obligation to bring terrorists to justice,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. “It should also prove to anyone who wishes to harm our country, we will not stop, and we will never forget.”

“Al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun pledged allegiance to a known terrorist organization, conspiring to kill coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and even bomb a U.S. embassy in Nigeria,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “Today’s conviction holds the defendant responsible for the terror he waged overseas. I am thankful to the detectives, agents, and more than 50 partner agencies on the Joint Terrorism Task Force here in Manhattan and to the prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York who continue bring rigorous terrorism cases in federal court.”

Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul,” “Abu Tamim,” “Esbin Gol,” “Isbungoul,” “Joseph Johnson” and “Mortala Mohamed Adam,” was convicted on all five counts presented to the jury, which include conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals; conspiracy to bomb a government facility; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al Qaeda; providing and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda; and use of explosives in connection with terrorist activities.

During the two-week trial, the government established that Harun, purportedly a citizen of Niger, traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in late summer of 2001 to join a jihadist group. There, he moved into an al Qaeda guesthouse – a registration center for new al Qaeda recruits – where he was living on Sept. 11, 2001. Immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda military leaders sent Harun to training camps in Afghanistan, in anticipation of an American invasion. At these camps, he learned how to use weapons and explosives, met top al Qaeda leaders and received his “kunya” (nom de guerre) “Spin Ghul,” meaning the, “White Rose.” Harun then traveled to Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas region of Pakistan, where he operated under Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, one of bin Laden’s deputies who was al Qaeda’s top military commander in Afghanistan at that time.

On April 25, 2003, Harun and fellow al Qaeda jihadists ambushed a U.S. military patrol from Firebase Shkin. Harun fired machinegun rounds and threw grenades at American soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akhbar” or “God is Great.” Two U.S. servicemen were killed in the attack, Private First Class Jerod Dennis, 19, of Oklahoma, and Airman First Class Raymond Losano, 24, of Texas. Several other soldiers were seriously wounded. Harun was also wounded but escaped to Pakistan. A pocket-sized Koran recovered at the scene contained Harun’s fingerprints and a journal describing the attacks contained Harun’s alias.

While recovering from his wounds in Pakistan, Harun met with senior al Qaeda officials – including Abu Faraj al-Libi (Abu Faraj), then al Qaeda’s external operations chief – and expressed his desire to engage in acts of terror against U.S. interests outside of Afghanistan, specifically attacks similar to 1998 al Qaeda bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Harun also swore “bayat” – or formal allegiance – to bin Laden through bin Laden’s military commander Abdul Hadi.

In summer of 2003, Harun traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria, where he planned to bomb the U.S. Embassy. He recruited accomplices, scouted the Embassy and other potential Western targets, and sent an accomplice to find explosives. He also met with local terrorist leaders to build up al Qaeda’s network in West Africa.

In 2004, Harun directed a co-conspirator to travel from Nigeria to deliver information and materials to al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. After learning that the co-conspirator had been arrested in Pakistan, Harun fled Nigeria. At approximately the same time, the FBI obtained a hard drive containing a letter written from Harun’s al Qaeda handler to Harun, providing him with detailed instructions on how to attack Americans in Nigeria. The letter specifically instructed Harun to target Americans – whom he described as “the head of the snake” – at “locations where Americans congregate,” such as embassies, hotels and “places where they gather for fun.” The al Qaeda handler also instructed Harun to obtain one ton of explosives for the bombing operation in Nigeria.

Harun then traveled to Libya where he planned to surreptitiously enter Europe to carry out terrorist attacks against Western interests. In early 2005, however, he was arrested by Libyan authorities and held in custody until his release in June 2011. Subsequently, Harun was arrested on June 24, 2011 by Italian authorities.

Harun was indicted in the U.S. on Feb. 21, 2012, and the Italian Minister of Justice ordered his extradition on Sept. 14, 2012 to face the charges pending in the Eastern District of New York.

When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan on June 22, Harun faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Melody Wells and Matthew J. Jacobs of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Joseph N. Kaster of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Hester (W.D. Missouri Feb. 21, 2017) (new Islamic State material support case)

February 22, 2017

Details from the press release:

WASHINGTON – Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., 25, of Jefferson City, Missouri, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Hester was charged in federal court based on his role in making preparations to launch a terrorist attack with persons he believed were associated with ISIS, who were actually undercover law enforcement personnel.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson for the Western District of Missouri and Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson of the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office.

“As alleged in the complaint, Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. attempted to provide material support to ISIS by participating in what he believed would be a deadly attack committed in the name of the foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Countering terrorist threats remains the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue our efforts to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders.”

“First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Dickson. “He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims. He readily participated in the preparations for an attack, provided materials and resources for an attack and voiced his intent to carry out an attack. I commend the FBI for protecting the public from a security threat.”

“Terrorism knows no demographic boundaries and remains the FBI’s top priority,” said Special Agent in Charge Jackson. “The arrest of Hester is the culmination of an extensive FBI investigation and demonstrates the challenges law enforcement faces in identifying individuals intent on causing harm.”

Hester, who remains in federal custody, was arrested on February 17, when he arrived at an arranged meeting with an undercover law enforcement employee. The criminal complaint was signed on Sunday and made public today, when Hester made his initial court appearance.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, throughout the investigation, Hester expressed his interest in and exhibited his willingness to commit violence in support of ISIS – and he attempted to provide material support to ISIS by assisting in what he believed would be a murderous terrorist bombing and gunfire attack committed in the name of the foreign terrorist organization.

Hester is a U.S. citizen who was born in Missouri. He was enlisted in the U.S. Army for less than a year, receiving a general discharge from service in mid-2013.

FBI agents undertook a review of Hester’s publicly available posts on multiple social media accounts in September 2016. On Oct. 3, 2016, Hester was arrested by the Columbia, Missouri, Police Department in an unrelated case and remained in state custody until he was released on bond on Oct. 13, 2016. His bond conditions included electronic monitoring. While Hester was being monitored, FBI undercover employees maintained regular contact with him via an encrypted messaging app and text messages, and met with him on several occasions.

On January 24, Hester pleaded guilty in state court to property damage and unlawful use of a weapon and was released on his own recognizance. Hester was no longer on electronic monitoring after that date. FBI undercover personnel continued to meet in person with Hester and communicate with him electronically.

Hester agreed to meet again with an FBI undercover employee on February 17. When Hester arrived for that meeting, he was arrested. Hester was the sole subject of this undercover investigation.

Undercover Investigation

According to the affidavit, the investigation began when the FBI became aware (through multiple confidential sources) of Hester’s social media posts, in which he expressed animus towards the U.S. and suggested an adherence to radical Islamic ideology and a propensity for violence. Hester used several online aliases, including “Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki,” “Junaid Muhammad,” “Rabbani Junaid Muhammad,” “Rami Talib” and “Ali Talib Muhammad.”

On Oct. 3, 2016, Hester was arrested by Columbia police officers after an incident in the parking lot of a grocery store. Hester, who appeared to be in an argument with his wife, threw a folded pocket knife through a plate-glass window near the entrance of the store. When store employees confronted Hester, he assumed an aggressive stance and forcefully placed his hand into the diaper bag he was carrying in a manner that appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Police officers later recovered a 9mm handgun from the diaper bag. Hester was in custody until Oct. 13, 2016, when he was released on bond and placed on electronic monitoring.

On Oct. 15, 2016, two days after Hester’s release on bond, an FBI employee using an undercover identity contacted Hester by private message. The FBI employee had accepted a friend request from Hester the day before Hester was arrested for the grocery store incident. They continued to communicate via social media, text and an encrypted messaging app, the affidavit says, during which Hester presented himself as a security threat, stating, for example, that the U.S. government should be “overthrown,” and suggesting “hitting” the government “hard,” while noting that it would not be “a one man job.” Hester identified categories of potential targets for attack and said he wanted a “global jihad.” Hester stated that he was trying to find like-minded people to help. When the undercover employee mentioned “brothers,” Hester said he wanted to meet them.

Hester then established that he would act on the statements he made online. In early November 2016, the affidavit says, Hester made arrangements with the undercover employee – whom he never met in person – to meet with “one of the brothers.” The undercover employee arranged this meeting with another undercover FBI employee.

During a January 31 meeting, the undercover employee provided Hester with a list of items to purchase, including 9-volt batteries, duct tape, copper wire and roofing nails. The undercover employee implied that these items would be used to make bombs, the affidavit says, stating that those materials are needed “to make … things … to bring some kind of destruction.” Hester allegedly responded by stating: “I’m just ready to help. I’m ready to help any way I can.” When the undercover employee stated that what they were planning was “going to bring them to their knees … and then they gonna know to fear Allah,” Hester expressed his anticipation by stating: “I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”

Hester and the undercover employee agreed to meet again at Hester’s residence the next day. When the undercover employee arrived, the affidavit says, Hester gave him the items he had purchased. The undercover employee told Hester they were planning something “10 times more” than the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hester expressed his approval. The undercover employee told Hester that they were planning on “killing a lot of people.” The undercover employee told Hester that he could “walk away,” the affidavit says, but Hester said, “I’m down.” The undercover employee told Hester they were going to “wage all kinda war,” and Hester again expressed his approval.

The undercover employee then pulled back blankets in the back of the SUV to show Hester three AK-47 style rifles and two .45-caliber handguns. The undercover employee told Hester that, while they had plenty of firearms, they needed more ammunition. Hester stated that he could not purchase ammunition because of his state charges, but that he had a friend that could get ammunition for him. Hester stated that he would have money to purchase ammunition after he received his tax refund and after he was paid in a couple of weeks.

The undercover employee also opened a backpack, which contained pieces of pipe with end caps attached in the manner of pipe bombs, along with cord-like safety fuse, stating, “these are bombs right here.” The undercover employee explained that the duct tape Hester provided would be used to tape the bombs together, which Hester acknowledged, and that the nails Hester provided would “cut peoples’ heads off.” Hester responded: “Oh yeah. I know,” indicating that he understood the nails were to be used as shrapnel for bombs.

The undercover employee stated that they had more backpacks that they were going to put in different locations. Hester acknowledged that he understood, and stated that they had to be smarter than the Boston Marathon bombers. Hester again confirmed that he was “down,” the affidavit says, and that he understood they had to “lay low” and act in a manner to avoid detection.

The undercover employee stated that they were going to “strike fear in all these infidel hearts,” and Hester responded that he agreed and that he was ready.

According to the affidavit, Hester contacted the first undercover employee via text message on February 2, and indicated he would “have some more stuff … in a couple of weeks when I get paid.” Hester asked the undercover employee, “When you talk to the brother again let him know I’ll have some more gifts in a couple of weeks.”

On February 4, 6, 7, 11 and 16 Hester communicated with an undercover employee via an encrypted messaging app. Hester said that he was excited, that he was “happy to be part” of it, and that it was “time they answer for their atrocities.” Hester predicted that it was “going to be a good day for Muslims worldwide.” Hester asked how the “party plan” was coming along and reiterated that he would get more “supplies.” The undercover employee told Hester that the “party” would take place on Presidents’ Day and that the targets of the operation would include busses, trains and a train station in Kansas City. Hester said, according to the affidavit, that it felt “good to help strike back at the true terrorist.”

On February 17, Hester met again with the second undercover employee and brought two additional boxes of roofing nails. Hester accompanied the undercover employee to a nearby storage facility, where the two examined the security cameras. Hester was arrested shortly thereafter.

The charge contained in this complaint and the assertions in the supporting affidavit are simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and David Raskin, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Qamar (E.D. Va. Feb. 17, 2017) (8.5 year sentence in Islamic State material support case)

February 19, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Haris Qamar, 26, of Burke, Virginia, was sentenced today to 102 months in prison for attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Qamar was also sentenced to 20 years of supervised release to be completed after his released from prison.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Division made the announcement after the sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

Qamar pleaded guilty on Oct. 17, 2016. According to court documents, in May 2016, Qamar and an FBI Confidential Witness (CW) discussed ISIL’s need for photographs of possible targets in and around Washington, D.C., for use in a video that ISIL purportedly was making to encourage lone-wolf attacks in the Washington, D.C., area. Qamar offered the CW ideas of what to photograph, including the Pentagon and numerous landmarks in Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., which could be targeted for terrorist attacks. On June 3, 2016, a conversation was audio and video recorded when the CW picked up Qamar in a vehicle and drove to area landmarks on the list Qamar previously developed. Qamar said “bye bye DC, stupid ass kufar, kill’em all.” Qamar and the CW met again on June 10, 2016, and drove to a location in Arlington to take additional photographs for the purported ISIL video.

According to the statement of facts, during numerous conversations with the CW, Qamar expressed his interest and excitement in the extreme violence associated with ISIL. Qamar said he loved the bodies, blood, and beheadings. He recalled watching a video of a Kurdish individual being slaughtered and he liked the cracking sound made when the individual’s spinal cord was torn. On several occasions, Qamar said he could slaughter someone and described how he would do it. Qamar also stated he admired lone-wolf attackers because they love Islam so much that they are willing to die as martyrs for Islam. In the same conversation, Qamar and the CW also discussed suicide bombings. The CW said the CW did not believe in suicide bombings, but Qamar responded, “I believe in it 100 percent.”

According to the statement of facts, on Sept. 11, 2015, terrorists connected with ISIL posted a “kill list” to the internet containing the names and addresses of U.S. military members. A few days later, Qamar told CW that the residences of several service members who appeared on the “kill list” were near Qamar’s home, and Qamar observed undercover police cars near those residences. On Sept. 16, 2015, Qamar tweeted his prayer that Allah “give strength to the mujahideen to slaughter every single US military officer.”

Moreover, according to the statement of facts, on Sept. 25, 2015, Qamar told the CW that he tried to join ISIL in 2014, and purchased a plane ticket from Newark, New Jersey, to Istanbul, Turkey. Qamar, however, did not show up for the flight because his parents prevented him from doing so; Qamar’s parents took his passport. Qamar said his parents threatened to notify law enforcement and said he fought with his father and called his father a traitor to Islam. On Nov. 18, 2015, the CW asked Qamar if his father gave him back his passport, would Qamar travel overseas and join ISIL. In response, Qamar said if that happened, “I’m done, I leave.”

In a related matter, Soufian Amri, 32, of Falls Church, Virginia, and Michael Queen, 28, of Woodbridge, Virginia, acquaintances of Qamar, were arrested on Wednesday and charged with obstructing justice and conspiring to provide material false statements to law-enforcement officers who were investigating Qamar.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case with assistance from Trial Attorneys Justin Sher and Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.