nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Farrokh (E.D. Va. Mar. 18, 2016) (guilty plea in ISIL material support case)

March 18, 2016

Plea agreement and fact statement attached, details from DOJ’s press release below:

WASHINGTON – Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, of Woodbridge, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, beginning in or about August 2015, and continuing through Jan. 15, 2016, Farrokh conspired with Mahmoud Amin Elhassan, 25, of Woodbridge, to travel from the United States to Syria in order to fight for, and at the direction of, ISIL. As part of their plan, Farrokh would travel first, followed by Elhassan at a later date. Farrokh and Elhassan spoke in detail about their potential travel, including discussing the different routes each would take to travel to Syria. Farrokh also provided $600 to Elhassan to aid in Elhassan’s future travel to Syria. Both men spoke openly with each other about supporting ISIL and supporting violent jihad, with Farrokh saying on Oct. 2, 2015, that he had no patience and wanted to go right away and “chop their heads.”

According to the statement of facts, in an effort to conceal their plans to support ISIL, Farrokh and Elhassan communicated in a manner in which they thought they could not be detected by law enforcement, such as using apps they believed were safe from law enforcement detection. In the summer 2015, Farrokh and Elhassan talked more seriously about going to join ISIL. When Farrokh and Elhassan discussed ways to reach ISIL, they concluded that they needed someone to help them do so.

According to the statement of facts, from November 2015 through Jan. 15, 2016, Farrokh and Elhassan spoke with other persons they believed would help facilitate their travel to Syria. Two of the individuals Farrokh spoke to were, in fact, sources for the FBI. Over the course of many meetings, the men discussed in detail their travel plans and efforts to avoid law enforcement detection, including having Farrokh shave his beard and to fly out of Richmond International Airport, to avoid what Farrokh believed to be stricter law enforcement scrutiny at larger airports. Farrokh and Elhassan agreed that Farrokh should tell his family that he intended to travel to Saudi Arabia to study.

On Jan. 15, 2016, Elhassan picked up Farrokh at his home in Woodbridge and drove him to Richmond to a location approximately one mile from the airport. Farrokh then took another cab to the airport, checked in for his flight, cleared security and was arrested as he was approaching his departure gate.

Farrokh was charged by criminal complaint on Jan. 16, 2016, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on July 15, 2016. 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.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon Kromberg and Dennis Fitzpatrick of the Eastern District of Virginia, along with Trial Attorney D. Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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Farrokh Plea Agreement.pdf

Farrokh Statement of Facts.pdf

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Elfgeeh (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2016) (22-year sentence in ISIL recruitment case)

March 18, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Mufid Elfgeeh, 32, of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 270 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford of the Western District of New York for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of the FBI’s Buffalo Division.

“Mufid Elfgeeh’s sentence holds him accountable for his attempt to provide material support to ISIL, including his efforts to recruit individuals and raise funds for the designated terrorist group,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “ISIL’s horrific violence is waged against men, women and children, as well as against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The National Security Division will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization.”

“Thanks to today’s sentence, one of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured has been brought to justice and will now serve a very long jail sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “But while this case strikes a significant blow against ISIL killers and wannabes, our ongoing efforts to eradicate terrorist groups will continue until all are brought to justice. As it did in this case, the public should continue to report to law enforcement any suspicious individuals or activities and thereby promote and protect the wonderful WNY area we call home.”

“While we are confident that keeping Mr. Elfgeeh in prison for the next two decades will keep us safer, there continues to exist a pervasive, persistent and ever-changing terrorism threat,” said Special Agent in Charge Cohen. “This threat remains among the highest priorities for the FBI and the intelligence community.”

According to court documents, from December 2013 through May 31, 2014, Elfgeeh actively recruited and attempted to send two individuals – both of whom were cooperating with the FBI at the time – to Syria to join and fight on behalf of ISIL.

Elfgeeh sent anti-American ISIL propaganda videos to one of the individuals and arranged for an English-speaking ISIL contact located in Iraq to communicate with that person over Facebook. In addition, Elfgeeh paid more than $240 for that individual to obtain a copy of his birth certificate, passport photographs and an expedited passport. Elfgeeh also purchased a laptop computer and a high-definition action camera for both individuals to take to Syria. The defendant further provided guidance to them about traveling so that they could avoid detection and be prepared for the vetting process involved in joining ISIL. In May 2014, Elfgeeh arranged for an overseas contact to coordinate the logistics of the trip and the admission of both individuals into ISIL-controlled territory in Syria.

According to court documents, Elfgeeh also sent $600 to a third individual in Aden, Yemen, in an effort to assist that individual in traveling from Yemen to Syria for the purpose of joining and fighting on behalf of ISIL.

In March 2014, Elfgeeh communicated with a Syrian national alleged to be the military commander of the Green Battalion of the United Rebels of Homs-Al-Murabitun, a group of fighters located in Homs, Syria. At the time, the battalion was blockaded in Homs and needed military support, including ammunition, mortar shells and explosives that could penetrate armored vehicles, to break out. Elfgeeh facilitated communication and coordination between the battalion commander and ISIL leadership for the purpose of the commander and his battalion pledging their allegiance to and joining ISIL.

In addition to all of the other criminal conduct, Elfgeeh used social media to receive and disseminate information about foreign terrorist groups and their activities in Syria and other countries; to declare his support for violent jihad, ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups; to inspire and encourage others to engage in violent jihad and/or pledge allegiance to ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups; and to seek financial contributions to assist jihadist fighters.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brett A. Harvey and Frank H. Sherman of the Western District of New York with the assistance of Trial Attorney Paul Casey of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Kareem (D. Ariz. Mar. 17, 2016) (jury conviction in Garland-related ISIL material support case)

March 18, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 44, of Phoenix, was found guilty today by a federal jury of one count each of the following five crimes: conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization; conspiracy to transport firearms and ammunition in interstate commerce with the intent to commit murder and aggravated assault; transporting firearms and ammunition in interstate commerce with the intent to commit murder and aggravated assault; making false statements to the FBI; and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange of the District of Arizona and Acting Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Phoenix Division.

“In the first jury trial in the country involving a homeland attack committed in the name of ISIL, Abdul Kareem was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to the foreign terrorist organization and other federal offenses,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The defendant conspired with Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi to provide material support to ISIL and to transport firearms in interstate commerce with the intent to commit murder and aggravated assault. Thanks to the response of brave law enforcement officers at the scene, no innocent lives were lost when Simpson and Soofi attacked the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. The National Security Division will continue to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who conspire with others to support foreign terrorist organizations and to commit acts of violence.”

“Today’s guilty verdict, in one of the country’s first trials involving terrorist acts committed in the United States by ISIL supporters, demonstrates our office’s deep commitment to combatting terrorism,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Strange. “I want to thank the FBI for the massive effort that went into the underlying investigation, as well as the brave law enforcement officials in Garland whose quick action during the attack prevented a much larger tragedy.”

“This verdict sends a strong message to those who support terrorists,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Tolomeo. “People who are plotting to harm America and Americans are no longer a world away. Our agents and analysts will continue to confront this threat with a strong and coordinated effort as we work to protect all Americans. The FBI would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as our federal, state and local law enforcement partners of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their assistance in this case.”

The evidence at trial showed that, beginning around June 2014, Kareem and his two roommates, Simpson and Soofi, began conspiring to support ISIL. Their conspiracy focused on supporting ISIL by attacking targets in the United States. Over the course of the conspiracy, Kareem, Simpson and Soofi considered perpetrating an attack against military bases; individual military service members; shopping malls; the Glendale, Arizona, Super Bowl; and the so-called “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” which was to take place in Garland. On May 3, 2015, the morning of the contest, Simpson and Soofi drove from Arizona to Texas. Simpson and Soofi stopped their car near the contest’s location, got out of their car and began firing assault rifles at security personnel and law enforcement officers. A security guard was injured by one of their bullets, and Simpson and Soofi were shot and killed by police officers in the firefight. Kareem did not travel to Texas and was not injured during the attack. During an interview with FBI agents soon after the attack, Kareem lied about having prior knowledge of the attack and the contest.

The case was tried over the span of several weeks before U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton of the District of Arizona. Kareem is being detained pending sentencing, which is currently scheduled for June 27, 2016, before Judge Bolton. Kareem’s counts of conviction carry a potential sentence of at least 45 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the FBI, and the prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Koehler and Kristen Brook of the District of Arizona, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. al-Jayab (N.D. Ill. Mar. 17, 2016) (material support charge relating to unspecified groups in Syria)

March 18, 2016

DOJ’s press release is below, and a brief (one-count) indictment is attached. Looks like they are not sure which group this person affiliated with in Syria, and hence the charge is under 2339A rather than 2339B (the latter requiring that the support go to a specific designated foreign terrorist organization, the former requiring no particular organizational link but instead requiring support knowing or intending that it will facilitate commission of one of many predicate criminal acts).

WASHINGTON – Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, California, was indicted today in the Northern District of Illinois for attempting to provide material support to acts of violence overseas.

The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois, Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI’s Sacramento Division and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s Chicago Division.

Al-Jayab was also indicted earlier this year by a grand jury in Sacramento for allegedly making a false statement involving international terrorism. He pleaded not guilty to that charge, and his next court appearance will be a status hearing on May 12, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. PDT, before U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. of the Eastern District of California.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of California, Al-Jayab is a Palestinian born in Iraq, who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012. Between October 2012 and November 2013, while living in Arizona and Wisconsin, Al-Jayab communicated via social media with numerous individuals about his intention to go to Syria to fight for terrorist organizations, the complaint alleges. The complaint further alleges that on Nov. 9, 2013, he flew from Chicago to Turkey and then traveled to Syria.

According to the complaint, between November 2013 and January 2014, Al-Jayab reported on social media that he was in Syria fighting with terrorist organizations. Al-Jayab returned to the United States on Jan. 23, 2014, and settled in Sacramento.

The indictment returned in California contends that Al-Jayab gave false statements to agents from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during an interview on Oct. 6, 2014. In the interview, Al-Jayab indicated that he never supported terrorist groups and that the purpose of his trip to Turkey was to visit his grandmother. The California indictment contends that both statements were false.

The statutory maximum sentence for attempting to provide material support is 15 years in prison. An arraignment date has not yet been set.

An indictment is merely an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation was led by the Sacramento Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of FBI special agents and representatives from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of California and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division provided assistance in the investigation. The case in Chicago is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and Shoba Pillay of the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney D. Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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Al-Jayab NDIL Indictment.pdf