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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