nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Young (E.D. Va. Aug. 3, 2016) (ISIL material support)

August 3, 2016

Press release below, complaint and affidavit attached…

WASHINGTON – Nicholas Young, 36, of Fairfax, Virginia, was arrested today on charges of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Young is employed by the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) as a law enforcement officer.

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 made the announcement. Young’s initial appearance is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan of the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Young has been employed as an MTPD officer since 2003. Law enforcement first interviewed Young in September 2010 in connection with his acquaintance, Zachary Chesser, who had been arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Over the next several years, Young allegedly had numerous interactions with undercover law enforcement personnel and an FBI confidential human source (CHS) regarding his knowledge of and interest in terrorism-related activity. Many of these interactions were recorded. Law enforcement also interviewed Young’s family and co-workers. In 2011, Young met with an undercover law enforcement officer, and several of these meetings included another of Young’s acquaintances, Amine El Khalifi, who later pleaded guilty to charges relating to his plan to conduct a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2012.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, in 2011, Young traveled to Libya once and attempted to travel there a second time. Young told FBI agents that he had been with rebels attempting to overthrow the Muammar Qaddafi regime. Baggage searches revealed that Young traveled with body armor, a kevlar helmet and several other military-style items, according to the allegations.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on about 20 separate occasions in 2014, Young met with the CHS, who posed as a U.S. military reservist of Middle Eastern descent who wanted to travel overseas to join ISIL. During these conversations, Young allegedly advised the CHS on how to evade law enforcement detection by utilizing specific travel methods and advised the CHS to watch out for informants and not discuss his plans with others.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, also in 2014, the CHS led Young to believe that he had successfully left the United States and joined ISIL. In reality, the CHS had no further contact with Young. All further communications between Young and the CHS’s email account were actually communications between Young and FBI undercover personnel posing as the CHS. In June 2015, Young emailed the CHS asking for advice from the CHS’s commanders on how to send money to ISIL. Young said, “[u]nfortunately I have enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands, so I imagine banking transactions are automatically monitored and will flag depending on what is going on.”

In December 2015, the FBI interviewed Young, ostensibly in connection with an investigation into the whereabouts of the CHS, according to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. Young allegedly said that the CHS had left the United States to go on a vacation tour in Turkey approximately one year ago. In addition, according to the allegations in the complaint, Young said that he knew of no one in the United States or overseas who helped the CHS cross the Turkish border into Syria.

On July 18, 2016, Young allegedly communicated with a person who he believed to be the CHS regarding purchasing gift cards for mobile-messaging accounts that ISIL purportedly uses in recruiting others to join the terrorist organization. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on July 28, 2016, Young sent 22 gift card codes to the FBI undercover officer posing as the CHS with a message that stated: “Respond to verify receipt . . . may not answer depending on when as this device will be destroyed after all are sent to prevent the data being possibly seen on this end in the case of something unfortunate.” The codes were ultimately redeemed by the FBI for $245, according to court documents.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted, Young faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The MTPD initiated this investigation and continues to work collaboratively with the FBI Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and John T. Gibbs of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney David P. Cora of the National Security Division.

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Young Complaint and Affidavit.pdf

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Cornell (S.D. Ohio Aug. 1, 2016) (guilty plea in plot to attack State of the Union)

August 3, 2016

Press release below:

WASHINGTON – Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, of Green Township, Ohio, pleaded guilty today to one count of attempting to kill government employees, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Acting 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. Cornell pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith of the Southern District of Ohio.

Cornell was originally charged by an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Jan. 21, 2015. On May 7, 2015, Cornell was additionally charged by superseding indictment with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

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 January 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. Cornell intended to kill officers and employees of the United States, and possessed two semi-automatic rifles and approximately 600 rounds of ammunition, according to the plea agreement.

The defendant admitted that his planned attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to provide material support and resources – both personnel and services – to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The material support count carries a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Attempted murder of government employees and officials is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence is a crime punishable by a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

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 his admissions in 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.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and Acting 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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