nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Pham (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2016) (40 year sentence for AQAP member)

May 27, 2016

DOJ’s press release:

Minh Quang Pham, aka Amin, 33, was sentenced to 40 years in prison today in the Southern District of New York for terrorism charges based on Pham’s efforts in support of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a designated foreign terrorist organization. On Jan. 8, 2016, Pham pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to AQAP, one count of conspiring to receive military training from AQAP and one count of possessing and using a machine gun in furtherance of crimes of violence.

The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“This sentence holds Minh Quang Pham accountable for his terrorist activities, including providing material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and receiving explosives training from Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen for the purpose of committing an attack in the United Kingdom,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Counterterrorism is the National Security Division’s highest priority, and we will continue to bring justice to those who seek to aid designated foreign terrorist organizations in their efforts to commit violent attacks against the United States and our allies.”

“Minh Quang Pham committed himself to the violent mission of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist organization that has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks around the world, including the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Pham went to Yemen to receive military training from AQAP and contributed to Inspire magazine, a recruitment tool and ‘how-to’ guide for would-be terrorists around the world. This prosecution and today’s sentencing show that terrorists and those who support them will continue to be brought to justice in American courts, thanks to the continuing resolve of the Department of Justice, this Office and our global law enforcement partners.”

According to the indictment, extradition materials, court filings and statements made at related court proceedings, including today’s sentencing:

In December 2010, after informing others that he planned to travel to Ireland, Pham traveled from London, where he resided, to Yemen, the principal base of operations for AQAP. Pham traveled to Yemen in order to join AQAP, to wage jihad on behalf of AQAP and to martyr himself for AQAP’s cause. After arriving in Yemen, he swore an oath of loyalty to AQAP in the presence of an AQAP commander.

While in Yemen in 2010 and 2011, Pham provided assistance to and received training from Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S.-born senior leader of AQAP. Al-Aulaqi advised Pham to return to the United Kingdom for the purpose of finding and making contact with individuals who, like Pham, wanted to travel to Yemen to join AQAP. Al-Aulaqi also provided Pham with money, as well as a telephone number and e-mail address that Pham was to use to contact al-Aulaqi upon his return to the United Kingdom. In addition, Pham exchanged his laptop computer with al-Aulaqi, who provided him with a new “clean” laptop to take with him when he returned to the United Kingdom so that the authorities would not find anything if they searched his computer.

In or about June 2011, prior to his departure from Yemen, Pham approached al-Aulaqi about conducting a suicide attack whereby he would “sacrifice” himself on behalf of AQAP. Al-Aulaqi personally taught Pham how to create a lethal explosive device using household chemicals and directed Pham to detonate such an explosive device at the arrivals area of London’s Heathrow International Airport following Pham’s return to the United Kingdom in 2011. Al-Aulaqi instructed Pham to carry an explosive in a concealed backpack and target the area where flights arrived from the United States or Israel.

During his time in Yemen, Pham also assisted with the preparation and dissemination of AQAP’s propaganda magazine,Inspire. Pham worked directly with now-deceased U.S. citizen Samir Khan, who was a prominent member of AQAP responsible for editing and publishing Inspire. Pham, who has college degrees in both graphic design and animation, received training in the various types of software used for Inspire and worked closely with Khan, contributing to the magazine in numerous ways. Pham used graphic design software to edit videos and photos that would be used as propaganda in Inspire; recorded television programs that Khan might find useful to the magazine; and offered his camera to be used for the taking of numerous photos used for Inspire. Pham also posed in photographs that accompanied Inspirearticles and provided instructions to its followers. Among those were a series of photographs accompanying an article with instructions on disassembling and cleaning a Kalashnikov assault rifle. In another photograph, accompanying an article entitled, “Why Did I Choose Al Qaeda,” which was written by al-Aulaqi, Pham and three other men were shown wielding automatic Kalashnikov assault rifles. In addition, AQAP trained Pham in the use of a Kalashnikov assault rifle and provided him such a rifle, which he used in furtherance of his activities on behalf of AQAP in Yemen.

On July 27, 2011, Pham returned to the United Kingdom. Upon his arrival at London’s Heathrow International Airport, U.K. authorities detained Pham, searched him and recovered various materials from him, including various electronic media that contained computer files forensically identical to those possessed by a cooperating witness who had previously reported sharing electronic documents with Pham while they were in Yemen with AQAP. In addition, Pham was found to be in possession of a live round of .762 caliber armor-piercing ammunition, which is consistent with ammunition that is used in a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Pham was arrested in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2012, and extradited to the United States in February 2015.

In addition to the 40 year prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Southern District of New York also imposed a life term of supervised release and a $300 special assessment. On Jan. 8, 2016, Judge Nathan issued an order that Pham be removed from the United States to the United Kingdom upon completion of his sentence.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed their gratitude to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for the critical role it played in the investigation and prosecution. Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their significant assistance, as well as the Metropolitan Police Service/SO 15 Counter Terrorism Command at New Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service for their cooperation in the investigation and prosecution.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna M. Skotko, Sean S. Buckley, Shane T. Stansbury and Ian McGinley of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Elhassan (EDVA May 24, 2016) (ISIL material support indictment)

May 27, 2016

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, 26, of Woodbridge, Virginia, was indicted by a grand jury late yesterday on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization; aiding and abetting the provision of material support to ISIL; and making false statements to the FBI.

The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the indictment, from on or about Aug. 1, 2015, until Jan. 15, 2016, Elhassan unlawfully and knowingly conspired with Joseph Hassan Farrokh to provide material support or resources to ISIL. In furtherance of the conspiracy, on Jan. 15, 2016, Elhassan drove Farrokh to Richmond, Virginia, in order to enable Farrokh to fly to overseas to join ISIL.

According to the indictment, Elhassan also attempted to provide material support or resources to ISIL by aiding and abetting Farrokh’s attempt to join ISIL. Elhassan’s aiding and abetting included introducing Farrokh to an individual that Elhassan believed could facilitate Farrokh’s travel overseas; driving Farrokh from Farrokh’s home to Richmond so that Farrokh could embark on his travel to join ISIL; and making false statements to the FBI about Farrokh’s travel in order to hinder the government’s investigation of Farrokh’s travel.

According to the indictment, Elhassan knowingly, unlawfully and willfully made material false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations in a matter involving international terrorism, including: On Jan. 15, 2016, Elhassan falsely stated to FBI agents that Farrokh had flown out of Dulles Airport earlier that day on a flight to California to attend a funeral; that Farrokh had said that he would be back in about two weeks; that neither he nor Farrokh supported ISIL; and neither he nor Farrokh ever tried to find someone to help them get to ISIL.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

If convicted, Elhassan faces a maximum sentence of 48 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.

The case is being investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dennis M. Fitzpatrick and Gordon D. Kromberg 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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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Abood (N.D. Tex. May 25, 2015) (4-year sentence for lying to FBI about ISIS-related travel)

May 25, 2016

From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Bilal Abood, 38, of Mesquite, Texas, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas to four years in prison for one count of making a false statement to a federal agency.

The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Thomas M. Class Sr. of the FBI’s Dallas Division.

“My office’s highest priority is and will remain the security of our homeland and the safety of all Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Parker. “We remain more committed than ever to aggressively fighting all terrorism-related acts in north Texas. We appreciate the outstanding work by the Dallas FBI and the assistance of the department’s National Security Division during this investigation and prosecution.”

“It remains among the highest priorities of the FBI to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters traveling in support of ISIL,” said Special Agent in Charge Class. “Bilal Abood lied to the FBI about the true purpose of his travel to Syria and his allegiance to ISIL, and now he will face the consequences.”

Abood has been in federal custody since his May 2015 arrest by the FBI related to a criminal complaint. He pleaded guilty in October 2015 to a one-count superseding indictment.

Abood admitted that on March 29, 2013, he attempted to depart the United States at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, but was not allowed to board the international flight. While at the airport, FBI special agents asked Abood about his planned travel and he stated he was merely planning to travel to Iraq to visit family. During a subsequent interview, Abood admitted to FBI special agents that his intent was to travel to Syria to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

On approximately April 29, 2013, Abood left the United States through Mexico and traveled through various countries into Syria. On Sept. 16, 2013, Abood returned to the United States and admitted to FBI special agents that he had traveled to Syria, but he denied supporting any terrorist groups.

A search warrant was executed on Abood’s computer on July 9, 2014. A review of that computer revealed that on approximately June 19, 2014, Abood stated, while using his Twitter handle @ibnalislaam, “I pledge obedience to the Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” Abood admitted that he knew that al-Baghdadi is the self-proclaimed leader of ISIL and was designated as a specially designated global terrorist on Oct. 4, 2011, and remains so to date.

Abood also admitted that on April 14, 2015, FBI special agents advised him that lying to a federal agent is a crime. He further admitted that on that date, he falsely told FBI special agents that he had never pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi and that he was aware that the agents were investigating a matter that they suspected could involve international terrorism.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Dallas Division. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Alimehmeti (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2016) (ISIS material support prosecution)

May 24, 2016

WASHINGTON – Sajmir Alimehmeti, aka Abdul Qawii, 22, of the Bronx, New York, was arrested today for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as for making a false statement in an application for a U.S. passport. Alimehmeti is expected to be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York.

The arrest was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner William J. Bratton of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

“Alimehmeti was charged for his attempt to provide material support to ISIL by assisting a person who he believed was traveling to Syria to join ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division will continue to work with our partners to identify, disrupt and hold accountable those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

“As alleged, Sajmir Alimehmeti, a Bronx man and an ISIL sympathizer, took steps to travel overseas to support ISIL’s terror campaign,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “As the complaint alleges, Alimehmeti also bought military-type weapons and helped someone he believed to be a fellow ISIL supporter get travel documents, equipment and encryption technology purportedly to get to Syria to fight with ISIL. Alimehmeti is charged today with actions that show a clear intention to support a terrorist organization that is hell-bent on murder and mayhem. For that, thanks to the incredibly dedicated work of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, Alimehmeti is under arrest and facing federal criminal charges.”

“The subject in this case was allegedly having a hard time getting overseas to fight with ISIL,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez. “But when he couldn’t leave, he allegedly seemed more than willing to help others tread the same path to join an insidious and deadly terrorist organization. Cases like this keep the FBI JTTF and our partners at the NYPD going day in and day out, protecting our city from individuals who plot to help murderers.”

“As alleged, Alimehmeti continued his quest to support ISIL’s deadly terrorist agenda, after being denied entry into Europe with a bag full of military gear,” said Commissioner Bratton. “When he returned home, to the Bronx, he allegedly turned to helping others join the terrorist organization as he built his own arsenal of weapons. Today’s case is the latest example of collaboration at its best, a case worked through the Joint Terrorism Task Force with undercover officers from the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau.”

As alleged in the criminal complaint, unsealed today in federal court:

In October 2014, Alimehmeti attempted to enter the United Kingdom but was denied entry after U.K. authorities found camouflage clothing and nunchucks in his luggage. In December 2014, Alimehmeti was again denied entry into the United Kingdom, this time after U.K. authorities found that his cellphone contained images of ISIL flags and improvised explosive device attacks. Further forensic examination of images on the cellphone and Alimehmeti’s laptop computer showed numerous indications of Alimehmeti’s support for ISIL, including a picture of Alimehmeti with an ISIL flag in the background, pictures of ISIL fighters in the Middle East, a picture of Alimehmeti making a gesture of support for ISIL and numerous audio files relating to jihad and martyrdom.

After returning to the United States, Alimehmeti continued to express his support for -ISIL by displaying an ISIL flag in his apartment in the Bronx, among other things. In meetings with undercover law enforcement employees, Alimehmeti played multiple ISIL-related videos on his computer and his phone, including videos of ISIL decapitating prisoners.

Over the last 11 months, Alimehmeti made multiple purchases of military-style knives and other military-type equipment, including masks, handcuffs, a pocket chain-saw and steel-knuckled gloves.

In October 2015, Alimehmeti applied for a new U.S. passport, claiming his previous passport had been lost. However, Alimehmeti later told an undercover law enforcement employee that his prior passport had not been lost and, instead, that he was applying for a new passport because he believed rejection stamps on his old passport, including rejection stamps from his attempted entries into the United Kingdom, would make it difficult to travel.

In May 2016, Alimehmeti attempted to assist an individual who was purportedly traveling from New York to Syria to train and fight with ISIL but who was actually an undercover law enforcement employee (UC). On May 17, 2016, Alimehmeti met with the UC in Manhattan, New York, where the UC was purportedly en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport to take an overseas flight later that night in order to join ISIL.

Alimehmeti agreed to help the UC with several tasks before the UC went to the airport, including by locating stores so that the UC could purchase supplies to use while traveling to and fighting with ISIL, including a cellphone, boots, a compass, a bag and flashlight, among other items. Alimehmeti provided the UC with advice and suggestions on the best boots to purchase and on which items to purchase. The defendant also advised the UC on the use of different kinds of encrypted communications apps, including an app that Alimehmeti stated was currently being used by “the brothers,” and downloaded three encrypted communications apps onto the UC’s new cellphone.

Further, Alimehmeti assisted the UC in traveling from Manhattan to a hotel in Queens, New York, so that the UC could purportedly meet with an individual who was preparing travel documents that the UC would use to travel to Syria (document facilitator). Alimehmeti, who had repeatedly expressed his own desire to travel to join ISIL, gave the UC a piece of paper with his name and contact information so that the UC could provide that information to the supposed document facilitator. In voicing his interest in joining ISIL, Alimehmeti stated, excitedly, “I’m ready to . . . go with you man . . . you know I would. I’m done with this place.” After leaving the hotel in Queens, Alimehmeti brought the UC to Kennedy International Airport via public transportation.

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

If convicted, Alimehmeti faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for providing material support and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for making a false statement in an application for a U.S. passport. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and British authorities for their assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brendan F. Quigley and Emil J. Bove III of the Southern District of New York with assistance from Trial Attorney Kiersten Korczynski of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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Alimehmeti Complaint.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Rackhmatov (EDNY May 11, 2016) (ISIS material support superseding indictment)

May 11, 2016

Indictment attached. Press release below:

WASHINGTON – A superseding indictment was unsealed in the Eastern District of New York charging Azizjon Rakhmatov, 28, an Uzbeki national, with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and conspiring to use a firearm.

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office, Commissioner William J. Bratton of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York.

Rakhmatov, who is charged with four others whose arrests and indictments have previously been announced, is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:00 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

As alleged in the third superseding indictment and other court filings, the investigation began when Abdurasul Juraboev, one of Rakhmatov’s co-conspirators, came to the attention of law enforcement. On an Uzbek-language website that propagates ISIL’s ideology, Juraboev posted an offer to engage in an act of martyrdom on U.S. soil on behalf of ISIL, such as killing the President of the United States. The investigation subsequently revealed that Juraboev and another co-defendant, Akhror Saidakhmetov, planned to travel to Turkey and then to Syria for the purpose of waging violent jihad on behalf of ISIL. Saidakhmetov was arrested on Feb. 25, 2015, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul. Juraboev previously purchased a plane ticket to travel from New York to Istanbul and was scheduled to leave the United States in March 2015. Rakhmatov and three other co-defendants – Abror Habibov, Dilkhayot Kasimov and Akmal Zakirov – are charged with funding Saidakhmetov’s efforts to join ISIL. Juraboev pleaded guilty on Aug. 14, 2015, to conspiring to provide material support to ISIL.

As alleged in the third superseding indictment and other court filings, Rakhmatov helped to fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts to join ISIL. Specifically, Rakhmatov and Habibov discussed providing their own money to cover Saidakhmetov’s travel expenses and to purchase a firearm for Saidakhmetov once he arrived in Syria. Rakhmatov also agreed to raise money from others to fund Saidakhmetov’s travel. In the week leading up to Saidakhmetov’s scheduled departure, Rakhmatov transferred money into Zakirov’s personal bank account, which was intended to facilitate Saidakhmetov’s travel to join ISIL.

If convicted, Rakhmatov faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. The charges in the superseding indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Capers in extending his grateful appreciation to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI New Haven Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Connecticut.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon, Douglas M. Pravda and Peter W. Baldwin of the Eastern District of New York, with assistance provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Reynolds of the District of Connecticut and Trial Attorney Danya Atiyeh of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Rakhmatov Indictment.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Medina (S.D. Fla. May 2, 2016) (charges in synagogue bomb-plot case)

May 2, 2016

Details from the press release below:

WASHINGTON – James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, Florida, was charged Saturday by criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction – an explosive device – at a synagogue in Aventura, Florida.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Division made the announcement.

The arrest was the culmination of an undercover operation during which Medina was closely monitored by the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The explosive device that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.

According to allegations contained in the complaint, in March 2016, Medina came to the attention of the FBI due to his conversations about attacking a synagogue in South Florida. The FBI was able to gauge Medina’s interest in the plot and collect evidence through the use of a confidential human source (CHS). Medina expressed anti-Semitic views and identified to the CHS the target of his attack, a Jewish synagogue in Aventura.

The complaint further alleges that Medina wanted to use an explosive device to commit the attack and engaged the CHS and an undercover FBI employee about the details of his planned criminal conduct. In preparation for the proposed attack, Medina studied the synagogue property to assess its vulnerabilities. On April 29, 2016, Medina took possession of an inert explosive device and was arrested while approaching the synagogue. Medina was under FBI surveillance and, once the FBI became involved, it worked to effectively mitigate any danger posed to the public.

A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted, Medina faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division and the South Florida JTTF. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen E. Gilbert and Marc S. Anton of the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.