nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Sullivan (W.D.N.C. Nov. 29, 2016) (guilty plea in ISIL-related case involving planned attacks in US)

December 6, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Justin Nojan Sullivan, 20, of Morganton, North Carolina, appeared in federal court in Asheville, North Carolina today and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina and Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, Division. U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger presided over Sullivan’s plea hearing.

“Sullivan was in contact and plotted with now-deceased Syria-based terrorist Junaid Hussain to execute acts of mass violence in the United States in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Counterterrorism remains our highest priority and we will continue to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders.”

“Sullivan admitted in court today that he attempted to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries by planning mass casualty shooting attacks on behalf of ISIL against innocent people in North Carolina and Virginia. Sullivan also admitted he had frequent and direct communications with Junaid Hussain, one of ISIL’s prominent members in Syria, who asked Sullivan to make a video of the deadly attack,” said U.S. Attorney Rose. “There is no more important work that we in the Department of Justice undertake than the fight against terrorism. It is frightening to know that the defendant in this case was able to use social media to contact and seek advice from ISIL, a murderous organization. Yet, it emboldens us to be fiercely aggressive and diligent in our efforts to combat this special kind of evil.” U.S. Attorney Rose added.

“Justin Sullivan planned to kill hundreds of innocent people. He pledged his support to ISIL and took calculated steps to commit a murderous rampage to prove his allegiance to the terrorist organization. There is no higher priority for the FBI than to thwart the next terrorist attack. This case is proof of what law enforcement agencies can accomplish to disrupt terrorist activities of any kind,” said Special Agent in Charge Strong.

According to information contained in plea documents, starting no later than September 2014, Sullivan watched violent ISIL attacks on the Internet, such as beheadings, and collected them on his laptop computer. Court records indicate that Sullivan openly expressed support for ISIL in his home and destroyed religious items that belonged to his parents.

Beginning no later than June 7, 2015, Sullivan conspired with Junaid Hussain, a prominent ISIL member responsible for online recruitment and providing directions and inspiration for terrorist plots in Western countries, to plan mass shooting attacks in North Carolina and Virginia. Sullivan discussed those plans on social media with an undercover FBI employee (UCE), who Sullivan attempted to recruit to join in such attacks.

Court documents indicate that Sullivan told the UCE via social media that it was better to remain in the United States to support ISIL than to travel. Sullivan suggested that the UCE obtain weapons and told the UCE that he was planning to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle at an upcoming gun show in Hickory, North Carolina. On or about June 20, 2015, Sullivan attempted to purchase hollow point ammunition to be used with the weapon(s) he intended to purchase.

According to court records, Sullivan had researched on the Internet how to manufacture firearm silencers and asked the UCE to build functional silencers that they could use to carry out the planned attacks. Court records show that Sullivan told the UCE he planned to carry out his attack in the following few days at a concert, bar or club, where he believed as many as 1,000 people would be killed using the assault rifle and silencer.

Filed documents indicate that over the course of Sullivan’s communications with Junaid Hussain, Hussain had asked Sullivan to make a video of his planned terrorist attack, to which Sullivan had agreed.

On or about June 19, 2015, the silencer, which was built according to Sullivan’s instructions, was delivered to him at his home in North Carolina, where Sullivan’s mother opened the package, according to court records. Sullivan took the silencer from his mother and hid it in a crawl space under his house. When Sullivan’s parents questioned him about the silencer, Sullivan, believing that his parents would interfere with his plans to carry out an attack, offered to compensate the UCE to kill them.

In filed plea documents, Sullivan admitted that he took substantial steps towards carrying out terrorist attacks in North Carolina and Virginia by: (1) recruiting the UCE; (2) obtaining a silencer from the UCE; (3) procuring the money that would have enabled him to purchase the AR-15; (4) trying to obtain a specific type of ammunition that he believed would be the most “deadly”; (5) identifying separate gun shows where he and the UCE could purchase AR-15s; and (6) obtained coupons for the gun shows he planned for himself and the UCE to attend on June 20 or 21, 2015.

According to filed documents, on June 19, 2015, Sullivan was arrested at his parents’ home, where law enforcement also executed a search warrant for the silencer and other items. Law enforcement interviewed Sullivan on separate occasions following his arrest. Sullivan also provided false statements on his involvement in the murder of his neighbor, John Bailey Clark, who had been killed in December 2014. Sullivan later admitted that he had stolen the rifle from his father’s gun cabinet and hid it in the crawl space. Forensic testing shows that the .22 rifle hidden by Sullivan was used to murder Mr. Clark.

The grand jury alleged that Sullivan also killed Mr. Clark, but Sullivan did not admit to this act in his plea today. However, in the plea documents filed, the United States Attorney set forth evidence supporting this allegation and specifically reserved the Government’s right to prove this additional conduct at Sullivan’s sentencing hearing.

The District Attorney’s Office for North Carolina’s 25th Prosecutorial District, which includes Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties, is handling North Carolina’s prosecution of Sullivan for Clark’s murder.

Sullivan is currently in federal custody. According to the filed plea agreement, Sullivan pleaded guilty to Count Nine of the Superseding Indictment, which charged him with attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Under the plea agreement, the parties have agreed that a sentence of life in prison is an appropriate sentence.

In making today’s announcement, Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord and U.S. Attorney Rose thanked District Attorney David Learner for his office’s continued assistance and coordination. Both also praised the investigative efforts of the FBI, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation in this case. Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord and U.S. Attorney Rose also thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Charlotte Division, the U.S. Secret Service, the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Hickory Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Savage of the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Gregory R. Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Singh (D. Nev. Nov. 29, 2016) (guilty plea in material support case linked to Sikh separatists in India)

December 6, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Balwinder Singh, 42, of Reno, Nevada, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists knowing and intending that such support would be used to commit terrorist attacks overseas.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse for the FBI’s Las Vegas Division.

“Singh attempted to provide material support and resources to terrorists to create violence and disruption abroad,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Identifying, thwarting and holding accountable individuals who pursue international terrorism is a top priority of the Department of Justice.”

“Today’s plea is the result of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force working proactively to disrupt terrorist attacks,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “National security is a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to locate, identify, and prosecute those who conspire and attempt to provide material support to terrorists and terrorist activities.”

“This is a strong indicator of the law enforcement community’s commitment to combating terrorism and keeping our nation safe,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse.

Singh, aka Jhaji, aka Happy, aka Possi, aka Baljit Singh, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. He has been detained since his arrest on Dec. 17, 2013. He was charged on Dec. 18, 2013. Singh is a citizen of India and permanent U.S. resident.

According to court filed documents and admissions made in connection with the plea agreement, between September 2013 and Dec. 17, 2013, Singh conspired with others to support terrorist attacks in India as part of a movement to create an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region of India.

Singh communicated with co-conspirators by telephone to discuss these plans and agreed to provide material support by facilitating a co-conspirator’s travel to and within South Asia and providing funding and materials necessary to carry out an overseas attack.

In October 2013, Singh and co-conspirators agreed that one co-conspirator would travel to South Asia in the fall of 2013. Upon arrival, the co-conspirator would travel to India and commit a terror attack – likely an assassination or maiming of an Indian governmental official. The final target would be determined after the co-conspirator arrived in South Asia.

In November 2013, Singh purchased two sets of night vision goggles. In December 2013, he provided the night vision goggles to a co-conspirator who was going to carry out the planned attack. On Dec. 9, 2013, the co-conspirator attempted to board a flight from the San Francisco International Airport to Bangkok, Thailand in order to carry out the terror attack with the night vision goggles provided to him by Singh. U.S. law enforcement prevented the co-conspirator from boarding that flight. As a result, the planned terror attack never occurred. After these events, Singh and his co-conspirators continued to discuss and plan the terror attack in India until Singh’s arrest.

At the time of sentencing, under the plea agreement, Singh faces the statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing has been set for Feb. 27, 2017.

The case is being investigated by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in northern Nevada. The northern Nevada JTTF is comprised of the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Nevada Department of Investigation. In addition, ATF, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office provided assistance in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sue Fahami, Brian L. Sullivan, Carla Higginbotham, and Trial Attorney Mara M. Kohn of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Cornell (S.D. Ohio Dec. 5, 2016) (30 year sentence for planned attack on State of the Union)

December 6, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, of Green Township, Ohio, was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for plotting, planning and attempting an attack on government officials during the State of the Union Address in 2015 in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary McCord, U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman of the Southern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division made the announcement. Cornell pleaded guilty on Aug. 1 and was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith of the Southern District of Ohio, who also ordered Cornell to serve a lifetime term of supervised release.

“With this sentence, Christopher Lee Cornell is being held accountable for plotting to kill federal officials in the name of ISIL,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Counterterrorism remains our highest priority and we will continue to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders.”

“The seriousness of this crime is apparent,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “Cornell plotted to commit violence as a symbolic attack on the United States as a whole. An attempt to murder another individual is horrific enough and justifies a significant sentence. But this was more than that. Cornell wanted to inflict pain on the spirit of the entire country, and terrorize its leadership. Today’s sentence appropriately holds him accountable for that.”

According to the plea agreement, from on or about August 2014 through January 2015, Cornell plotted, planned and attempted to travel to Washington, D.C., in order to attack the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union Address on Jan. 20, 2015.

Cornell admitted that he conducted online research of weapons, the construction of bombs, the U.S. Capitol and other potential targets in the Washington, D.C., area. He intended to kill officers and employees of the United States, and possessed two semi-automatic rifles and approximately 600 rounds of ammunition.

In addition, Cornell admitted that his planned attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to provide material support and resources – both personnel and services – to ISIL.

Cornell was arrested on Jan. 14, 2015, by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). After his arrest, he posted statements online that included a call for others to join him in violent jihad against the United States and its citizens on behalf of ISIL, according to admissions made in connection with the plea agreement.

The JTTF is made up of officers and agents from the Cincinnati Police Department; Colerain, Ohio, Police Department; Dayton Ohio, Police Department; Ohio State Highway Patrol; University of Cincinnati Police Department; U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations; FBI; U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; West Chester, Ohio, Police Department; and Xenia, Ohio, Police Department.

Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the JTTF for its investigation of this case. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Michael Dittoe of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan of the Southern District of Ohio.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Omar (D. Minn.) (final sentencings for the nine total ISIL material support defendants in the Minnesota case)

November 17, 2016

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – The last three of nine men were sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis for conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and for conspiracy to murder outside the U.S.

Guled Omar, 22, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was charged with one additional count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and one count of attempted financial aid fraud. Omar was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Mohamed Abdhihamid Farah, 22, of Minneapolis was charged with one additional count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, one count of perjury and one count of making a false statement. Farah was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22, of Minneapolis was sentenced to 30 years in prison. All three defendants were also sentenced to lifetime supervised release.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.

“This case — culminating in the sentencings of nine young men in the last three days — demonstrates our commitment to disrupting those who would conspire to travel to Syria to fight with ISIL,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Counterterrorism is the National Security Division’s highest priority and we will continue to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters abroad and to bring to justice those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

“ISIL remains one of the most dangerous terror organizations in the world,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “The defendants sentenced today remind us that this ideology ruins the lives of those who ascribe to it. Omar, Daud and Farah will spend the next several decades in prison because of their unbreakable desire to kill on behalf of ISIL. I commend the agents and officers of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for continuing to keep Minnesotans safe.”

“The sentences handed down today reflect the true gravity of the defendants’ crimes to betray their country, travel overseas and ultimately join a terrorist organization dedicated to the murder of innocent people,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton. “We hope these sentences will serve as a strong message that those who support terrorism will face justice. The FBI, through our Joint Terrorism Task Force, remains dedicated to working with our community partners to disrupt threats posed by ISIL and their supporters.”

As proven at trial, between May 2014 and their arrests on April 19, 2015, these three defendants and their co-conspirators made multiple attempts to join ISIL in Syria. In May 2014, defendant Omar and two other members of the conspiracy made an attempt to join ISIL by traveling across the U.S. – Mexico border near San Diego. This planned failed when members of defendant Omar’s family prevented his travel.

Omar again attempted to join ISIL in Syria on Nov. 6, 2014, by first flying from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis to San Diego, California. Again, defendant Omar planned to cross the United States – Mexico border near San Diego and travel onward to Syria to join ISIL. Before he could board the flight in Minnesota, Omar was stopped at the airport and prevented from boarding the plane. In order to fund this second attempt to join ISIL in Syria, Omar intended to use federal financial aid provided to him by the U.S. Department of Education to attend college.

Also in November 2014, Farah was one of four co-conspirators to take a Greyhound bus to New York, New York, and attempt to board a flight to Europe. Farah’s ultimate destination was Syria, where he planned to join and fight with ISIL. Federal agents in New York prevented defendant Farah and his three co-conspirators from traveling.

In April 2015, Daud and Farah drove from Minneapolis to San Diego, where they intended to purchase fake passports, cross the border into Mexico and travel to Syria to join ISIL. Unbeknownst to them, the individual from whom they purchased the fake passports was a law enforcement officer and both were arrested by federal agents immediately after obtaining the phony travel documents.

Eleven Minnesotans have been charged as part of this conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL. The men are all associates and friends of one another. Six defendants pleaded guilty before trial and two, Abdi Nur and Mohamed Roble, joined ISIL in Syria.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by members of the FBI-led JTTF. JTTF includes members from the following departments: the U.S. Marshals Service, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Bloomington Police Department in Minnesota, St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Federal Air Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Minneapolis Police Department, Burnsville Police Department in Minnesota, Department of State, the Airport Police, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Winter, John Docherty and Julie Allyn of the District of Minnesota, with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Rahimi (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2016) (explosives charges against Rahimi for attempted NYC bombings in September)

November 16, 2016

Indictment attached, details below:

WASHINGTON—Ahmad Khan Rahimi aka Ahmad Rahami, 28, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was charged today in Manhattan federal court in an eight-count indictment for offenses related to his alleged execution and attempted execution of bombings in New York City on Sept. 17, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Mary B. McCord and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman for the Southern District of New York.

“Ahmad Khan Rahimi has been indicted in New York and separately charged in New Jersey for allegedly planting and detonating bombs that resulted in numerous injuries,” said, Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “It was through world class investigative work that the defendant was identified and arrested before he could do any more harm. Pursuing those who seek to conduct attacks on our homeland will always remain the highest priority of the National Security Division.”

“Two months ago, Ahmad Khan Rahimi allegedly planted bombs in the heart of Manhattan and in New Jersey,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The bomb that exploded in Chelsea shattered windows hundreds of yards away and propelled a 100-pound dumpster over 120 feet, injuring over 30 people. Now indicted by a grand jury, Rahimi will face justice in a federal court for his alleged violent acts of terrorism.”

As alleged in the criminal complaint that was filed on Sept. 20 and the indictment that was filed today:

On Sept. 17, Rahimi transported two improvised explosive devices from New Jersey to New York. Rahimi placed one of the devices in the vicinity of 135 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York (the 23rd Street Bomb) and the other in the vicinity of 131 West 27th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood (the 27th Street Bomb).

At approximately 8:30 p.m., the 23rd Street Bomb – consisting of a high explosive main charge – detonated, causing injuries to over 30 people and multiple millions of dollars of property damage across a 650-foot crime scene. The injuries included, among other things, lacerations to the face, abdomen, legs and arms caused by flying glass; metal shrapnel and fragmentation embedded in skin and bone and various head injuries. The explosive components appear to have been placed inside a pressure cooker and left in a dumpster. The explosion propelled the more than 100-pound dumpster more than 120 feet. The blast shattered windows as far as approximately 400 feet from the blast site and, vertically, more than three stories high.

Shortly after the 23rd Street Bomb detonated, the 27th Street Bomb was located by law enforcement. The 27th Street Bomb, which failed to detonate, consisted of, among other things, a pressure cooker connected with wires to a cellular telephone, likely to function as a timer, and packaged with an explosive main charge, ball bearings and steel nuts.

Earlier that day, at approximately 9:35 a.m., another improvised explosive device, which also was planted by Rahimi, detonated in the vicinity of Seaside Park, New Jersey, along the route for the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K race. The start of the race – which was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. – was delayed on account of other law enforcement activity.

On Sept. 18, at approximately 8:40 p.m., additional improvised explosive devices that Rahimi also planted were found inside a backpack located at the entrance to the New Jersey Transit station in Elizabeth. One of these devices detonated as law enforcement used a robot to attempt to defuse it.

On Sept. 19, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Rahimi was arrested by police in Linden, New Jersey. Rahimi fired multiple shots at police, striking and injuring multiple police officers before he was himself shot, subdued and placed under arrest. In the course of Rahimi’s arrest, a handwritten journal was recovered from Rahimi’s person. Written in the journal were, among other things, mentions of explosive devices and laudatory references to Usama Bin Laden, the former leader of al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki, a former senior leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Nidal Hasan, who shot and killed 13 people in Foot Hood, Texas.

* * *

Rahimi is charged in the indictment with one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of bombing a place of public use, one count of destroying property by means of fire or explosive, one count of attempting to destroy property by means of fire or explosive, one count of interstate transportation and receipt of explosives and two counts of using of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, namely, the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

In addition to the pending charges in Manhattan federal court, Rahimi also has been charged in the federal court for the District of New Jersey in a complaint with offenses in connection with his alleged efforts to detonate explosives in Seaside Park and Elizabeth and in New Jersey state court for attempted homicide of police officers during his arrest.

U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division for its assistance.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas J. Lewin, Emil J. Bove III, Andrew J. DeFilippis and Shawn G. Crowley are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Brian K. Morgan of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The charges contained in the complaint and the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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U.S. v. Ahmad Khan Rahimi Indictment.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ahmed (D. Minn. Nov. 15, 2016) (4th, 5th, and 6th of 9 ISIS material support defendants to be sentenced this week)

November 16, 2016

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Six of nine defendants expected to be sentenced this week for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, have now been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was charged with an additional count of financial aid fraud, and was sentenced today to 15 years in prison and 20 years supervised release. Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 20, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 20 years supervised release. Hanad Mustofe Musse, 21, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 20 years supervised release.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.

"Today’s sentences reflect the seriousness of these defendants’ crimes," said U.S Attorney Luger. "Although all three defendants pleaded guilty before trial, none were willing to cooperate with the United States. ISIL continues to target Minnesota’s Somali community. Only by working together will we succeed in ending this threat."

“The sentences handed down today reflect the true gravity of the defendants’ crimes to betray their country, travel overseas, and ultimately join a terrorist organization dedicated to the murder of innocent people,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton. “We hope these sentences will serve as a strong message that those who support terrorism will face justice. The FBI, through our Joint Terrorism Task Force, remains dedicated to working with our community partners to disrupt threats posed by ISIL and their supporters."

According to his guilty plea in May 2014, Ahmed applied for and later received federal financial aid, which he claimed would be used to attend Minnesota Community and Technical College. Instead, Ahmed used that money to purchase a Greyhound bus ticket from Minneapolis to New York City, New York, and airfare from New York that he thought would enable him to travel to Syria to join ISIL. He was stopped at JFK International Airport in New York by federal agents. Ahmed pleaded guilty on April 25.

According to his guilty plea, A. Farah participated in the conspiracy throughout 2014 and early 2015 in various capacities, including attempting to obtain a real passport to travel to Syria to join ISIL. When that effort failed, A. Farah provided money and a photograph in an attempt to obtain a false passport so that he could travel to Syria to join ISIL. A. Farah also aided Musse in his effort to obtain a false passport. A. Farah pleaded guilty on April 14.

According to his guilty plea, in November 2014, Musse traveled by Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to New York City where he joined three of his co-conspirators at JFK. While at JFK, Musse purchased round-trip airfare to Athens, Greece, with the intention of traveling onward to Syria to join ISIL. He was stopped at JFK by federal agents. Musse pleaded guilty on Sept. 9, 2015.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by members of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The JTTF includes members from the following departments: the U.S. Marshals Service, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Bloomington Police Department in Minnesota, St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Federal Air Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Minneapolis Police Department, Burnsville Police Department in Minnesota, Department of State, the Airport Police, IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Winter, John Docherty and Julie Allyn of the District of Minnesota, with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Yusuf (D. Minn. Nov. 14, 2016) (ISIL material support sentences)

November 14, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – The first three of nine defendants expected to be sentenced this week for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, were sentenced today in three separate hearings in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Abdullahi Yusuf, 20, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, received time served and a sentence of 20 years supervised release. Abdirizak Warsame, 21, of Eagan, Minnesota, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 20 years supervised release. Zacharia Abdurahman, 21, of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, was sentenced to 120 months in prison and 20 years supervised release,

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.

“The hard work of rehabilitating those who seek to engage in ideological violence must continue,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger. “Judge Davis recognized that fact today in his considered sentences for those defendants who cooperated with the government and have begun to disengage from ISIL’s violent ideology.”

According to his guilty plea, in April 2014, Yusuf applied for an expedited U.S. Passport at the Minneapolis Passport Office. The following month, Yusuf attempted to travel from the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis to Istanbul, Turkey, to join ISIL. He was stopped at the airport by federal agents. Yusuf pleaded guilty on Feb. 26, 2015. Yusuf cooperated with the U.S. and testified at the trial of three of his co-conspirators.

According to his guilty plea, Warsame participated in the conspiracy throughout 2014 and early 2015 in various capacities, including serving briefly as “emir” of the co-conspirators, and helping unindicted co-conspirator, Yusuf Jama, obtain contact information to aid his joining ISIL in Syria. Warsame pleaded guilty on Feb. 11. Warsame cooperated with the U.S. and testified at the trial of three of his co-conspirators.

According to his guilty plea, in November 2014, Abdurahman and three co-conspirators traveled by bus from Minneapolis to JFK airport in New York, where they attempted to fly overseas to join ISIL in Syria. They were stopped from flying and questioned by federal agents before returning to Minnesota. Despite being stopped from traveling in November 2014, Abdurahman and the co-conspirators continued to discuss and plan another attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL. Abdurahman pleaded guilty on Sept. 17, 2015.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by members of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The JTTF includes members from the following departments: U.S. Marshals Service, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Bloomington Police Department in Minnesota, St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, Federal Air Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Minneapolis Police Department, Burnsville Police Department in Minnesota, Department of State, Airport Police, Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS and the FBI.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Winter, John Docherty and Julie Allyn of the District of Minnesota.