1. United States v. Khan (N.D. Ill. Mar. 25, 2010)
A man in Chicago has been arrested and charged with two counts of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, in violation of 18 USC 2339B (the 1996 material support statute). The complaint and underlying affidavit are attached, and the press release summary of the alleged facts appears below:
CHICAGO — A Chicago man who claims to be acquainted with an alleged terrorist leader in Pakistan was arrested today on federal charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization for allegedly attempting to provide funds overseas to al Qaeda, federal law enforcement officials announced. Although the defendant, Raja Lahrasib Khan, a Chicago taxi driver and native of Pakistan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, allegedly discussed attacking a stadium in the United States this summer, there was no imminent domestic danger, officials said.
The investigation leading to Khan’s arrest is unrelated to a separate investigation that resulted in federal terrorism charges against Chicagoans Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Coleman Headley in connection with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and a plot to attack targets in Denmark, the officials added.
Khan, 56, of the city’s north side, was charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism in a criminal complaint that was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed today following his arrest, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation is continuing, they said.
Khan was arrested this morning while working in downtown Chicago without incident by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. He was scheduled to appear at 3:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown in Federal Court in Chicago.
“While there was no imminent danger in the Chicago area or elsewhere, these charges, once again, affirm that law enforcement must remain constantly vigilant to guard against domestic support of foreign terrorist organizations. I am deeply grateful to the FBI agents and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their extremely hard work on this matter,” said Mr. Fitzgerald.
Mr. Grant said: “Over the past six months, FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country have disrupted plots, charged and apprehended a number of individuals and secured significant intelligence, which has been of benefit here and to our allies overseas. Notable as most of these successes have been, it also illustrates the reality of the environment we face today, along with the critical responsibility domestic law enforcement agencies and intelligence services have in protecting the public from the violent designs of others. It is a complex threat that we face and we are pleased with the results today,” he added.
“Today’s arrest and charges are the result of an outstanding cooperative law enforcement and intelligence effort and underscore the domestic and international aspects of the terror threat we face,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
According to a 35-page complaint affidavit, by at least 2008, Khan, who claims to have known Ilyas Kashmiri for approximately 15 years, learned that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, and that Kashmiri was purportedly receiving orders from al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. According to Khan, during his meeting or meetings with Kashmiri, among other things, Khan learned that Kashmiri wanted to train operatives to conduct attacks in the United States; Kashmiri showed Khan a video depicting the detonation of an improvised explosive device; and Kashmiri told Khan that he needed money, in any amount, to be able to purchase materials from the “black market.”
The complaint identifies Kashmiri as the leader in Kashmir of Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI), a Sunni extremist group located in Pakistan and Kashmir with links to al Qaeda. In a reported interview last October, Kashmiri purportedly said that he had joined forces with al Qaeda. In January 2010, Kashmiri, together with a former Pakistani military officer, Rana and Headley, were indicted in Chicago for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to murder and maim persons in a planned attack against the facilities and employees of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, in Denmark, as retribution for the publication of cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed.
The charges against Khan allege that on Nov. 23, 2009, he sent a money transfer of approximately $950 from a currency exchange located on North LaSalle Street in Chicago to Individual A, who was in either Mirpur or Bhimber, in Pakistan. Khan later spoke with Individual A by telephone and instructed him to give “Lala” 25,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $300) of the money he had sent. According to the affidavit, Khan told an undercover agent that “Lala,” which means “older brother” in Urdu, is a nickname Khan uses to refer to Kashmiri, who he told the agent he had met most recently in 2008 in Miran Shah in northwest Pakistan. Khan also told the agent that Khan believed that his telephones were being monitored, and if Khan or the undercover agent were ever questioned about their discussions regarding “Lala,” they should claim to have been referring to Khan’s actual older brother.
Just two weeks ago, on March 11, Khan and an associate, identified as “Individual B,” allegedly had a discussion during which they appeared to talk about attacking a stadium in the United States in “August.” Among other things, Khan described that bags containing remote controlled bombs could be placed in several different locations, and then “boom, boom, boom, boom.” Khan further said that he would ask “Lala” [Kashmiri] to teach him how to conduct such an attack, the complaint alleges. However, there are no allegations that Khan either knew Kashmiri’s current whereabouts or had yet discussed his stadium plan with him.
On March 17, after agreeing to personally deliver to Kashmiri any funds that the undercover agent wanted to provide, Khan allegedly accepted $1,000 (ten $100 bills) from the agent. The complaint states that Khan accepted these funds after having had prior conversations with the undercover agent in which: Khan confirmed that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda; Khan assured that Kashmiri would use the undercover agent’s funds to purchase weapons and, possibly, other supplies; Khan assured that he had provided Kashmiri with money in the past, including in approximately December 2009; and Khan discussed the possibility of having his son transport the money from the United States to England, where Khan would rendevous with his son, retrieve the money, and deliver it to Kashmiri in Pakistan.
On March 23, government agents at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport came into contact with Khan’s son, who was traveling to England. During this contact, agents discovered that Khan’s son possessed seven of the ten $100 bills that the undercover agent had given to Khan, according to the affidavit.
2. United States v. Rubio (S.D. Fla. Mar. 25, 2010)
A senior FARC leader and two others pled guilty over the past two weeks to conspiring to violate 18 USC 2339B by providing material support to FARC. Details from the press release:
WASHINGTON – A former high-ranking FARC 1st Front member and logistical network commander, Nancy Conde Rubio, and two collaborators, Ana Isabel Pena Arevalo and Luz Mery Gutierrez Vergara, have pleaded guilty to providing material support to the FARC, announced Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, David S. Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, Michael Folmar, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami Field Office, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Miami Field Office, and Chris K. Amato, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Southeast Field Office.
Earlier this afternoon, before the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the two FARC collaborators, Ana Isabel Pena Arevalo and Luz Mery Gutierrez Vergara, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (in Spanish, the “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia,”commonly known as the “FARC”). Last week, on March 17, 2010, the former high-ranking FARC 1st Front member and logistical network commander, Nancy Conde Rubio, pleaded guilty to the same offense.
All three defendants are Colombian nationals. Conde Rubio, 37, was extradited from the Republic of Colombia in September 2009; Gutierrez Vergara, 32, was extradited in April 2009; and Pena Arevalo, 47, was extradited in March 2009.
According to the government’s proffer of evidence, as agreed to by the defendants at the plea hearings, Conde Rubio was the leader of the 1st Front’s logistical support network. To supply itself, the FARC’s 1st Front relied on a network of individuals with access to Colombia’s metropolitan and commercial centers, as well as to product markets in other countries. It also relied on individuals involved in trafficking in narcotics, who had access to weapons, foreign currency, and other supplies, such as high technology communications equipment.
The 1st Front commander and Conde Rubio directed other members of the logistical support network to obtain and transport materials and supplies. One primary method of communication used to operate the network was by satellite telephones obtained by Conde Rubio from the United States. FARC members obtained cash from drug dealers in exchange for FARC controlled cocaine, and then transferred funds to the FARC collaborators who were members of the conspiracy so that they could purchase the materials and supplies needed to operate the 1st Front. Materials and supplies were transported to the FARC in airplanes via clandestine airstrips located in Colombia and elsewhere, in trucks, and in river boats navigating remote jungle rivers that traverse rural areas of Colombia and neighboring countries.
Gutierrez Vergara and Pena Arevalo served in the logistical support and supply network as radio call center operators, patching through high frequency radio calls from FARC leaders operating in the jungle to co-conspirators in urban areas responsible for obtaining materials and supplies for the FARC guerillas. Because neither land line nor cell phone service was available in the jungle areas controlled by the 1st Front, satellite telephones and high frequency radios were the only methods of electronic communication available.
The FARC is engaged, and has been since its inception in 1964, in armed conflict against the government of the Republic of Colombia. It seeks to destabilize all levels of the Colombian government through violence, including murders, hostage-takings and threats. In addition, the FARC has been strongly anti-American, characterizing American citizens as “military targets,” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage-takings. The FARC held three Americans hostage from Feb. 13, 2003, until they were rescued in a dramatic Colombian military operation on July 2, 2008. Beginning in September 2006, the three Americans were held hostage by the FARC’s 1st Front. As charged in the indictment, the logistical supply and communications network established by Conde Rubio was used by other FARC leaders to maintain control of and to transport the American hostages while they were being held by the 1st Front. Other alleged 1st Front leaders were charged in the indictment with hostage taking and related offenses, while other alleged members of the network – including narcotics traffickers and weapons dealers – were charged with providing material support or resources to the FARC.
Sentencing for Conde Rubio is scheduled for June 15, 2010, while Pena Arevalo and Gutierrez Vergara are scheduled to be sentenced on June 22, 2010. Pursuant to the plea agreement, if accepted by the court at the time of sentencing, Conde Rubio will serve a term of imprisonment of between 11 and 12 years. The two collaborators, whose roles were more minimal, each face a likely sentence of 37 to 46 months in prison.