nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Lutchman (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 26, 2017) (20 year sentence in ISIL material support case involving planned domestic attack)

January 26, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Emanuel L. Lutchman, 26, of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 50 years of supervised release for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. of the Western District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York Division made the announcement. Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci of the Western District of New York handed down the sentence.

“Emanuel Lutchman conspired with an ISIL member located overseas and planned to kill innocent civilians on U.S. soil in the name of the terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Countering terrorist threats remains the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who conspire to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. I want to thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who contributed to the disruption of this deadly plot.”

“This defendant was in direct personal communication with an individual who was an external attack planner and influential recruiter for ISIL in Syria,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “That individual is now deceased, but, while living, he acted essentially as a terror trainer to Emanuel Lutchman and others. Together the two discussed the defendant’s plan to conduct a murderous attack within the City of Rochester essentially as a means of establishing his value as a future terrorist for ISIL in Syria. Viewed in this context, it would be hard to overstate the danger that Lutchman presented.” Mr. Kennedy emphasized that, “As prosecutors, a significant part of the role we play is to protect the citizens in our community from the threats they face. This sentence accomplishes that.”

"Just over a year ago, we arrested Emanual Lutchman. It was a good day for Rochester, and for people everywhere who would felt the impact of Lutchman’s violent acts," said Special Agent in Charge Cohen. "The days preceding Lutchman’s arrest were full of apprehension after Lutchman accepted a directive from Abu Issa Al Amriki – a known ISIL leader – to kill multiple Americans. Today ends the judicial process for this case, but the FBI continues to work hard to protect our communities.”

Lutchman admitted that he conspired with an individual known as Abu Issa Al-Amriki, a now-deceased ISIL member in Syria, and planned to conduct an attack against civilians using knives and a machete on New Year’s Eve in 2015. Lutchman admitted that he intended to conduct an attack that could be claimed by ISIL and that could also help him gain membership into ISIL when he thereafter traveled overseas to join the terrorist organization.

According to court documents, Lutchman posted on social media expressions of support for ISIL, including images, videos and documents relating to ISIL and violent jihad. Lutchman also downloaded and watched terrorism-related videos, including videos relating to ISIL and the now-deceased terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. The defendant also maintained a digital collection of documents relating to terrorism and terrorist groups. This included all of the issues of Inspire magazine and other documents designed to provide guidance to individuals seeking to travel overseas to engage in violent jihad or engage in “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In December 2015, Lutchman obtained an online document written by an ISIL member in Syria, in which the ISIL member provided guidance to supporters who were seeking to travel overseas to join ISIL, including advice about preparation for violent jihad; the use of security measures while traveling to avoid apprehension by law enforcement authorities; instructions for killing non-believers and infidels, or “kuffar”; and contact information for the ISIL member and Al-Amriki.

On Dec. 25, 2015, Lutchman initiated online contact with Al-Amriki, who identified himself as an ISIL member in Syria. In a series of subsequent communications, Al-Amriki told Lutchman to plan an attack on New Year’s Eve and kill a number of kuffar. Al-Amriki advised the defendant to write something before the attack and give it to the ISIL member so that after the attack the ISIL member could post it online to announce Lutchman’s allegiance to ISIL. Al-Amriki told Lutchman that whatever Lutchman sends to ISIL, they would keep it until the attack was complete and then post it and publicize the attack on the Internet. Al-Amriki emphasized that Lutchman is “behind enemy lines,” that Lutchman was the closest person to their most hated enemy and that Lutchman has the chance to do things that ISIL wishes it could do.

Lutchman ultimately told Al-Amriki that he has a couple of “brothers” that want to make hijra and plan an attack. Al-Amriki encouraged Lutchman to complete an attack and stated that, if the Syrian borders open and the attack does not succeed, he would help Lutchman and his “brothers” make hijra. Al-Amriki told Lutchman to show ISIL how serious he is, stating, “New years is here soon. Do operations and kill some kuffar.” Lutchman told Al-Amriki that he hates it in the U.S., that he wants to join the ranks of ISIL and that he is ready to “give everything up” to be in Syria with ISIL. Al-Amriki told Lutchman, for the time being, to do what he can in the U.S.

In late December 2015, Lutchman was communicating with other individuals (referred to as Individuals A, B, and C in the plea agreement) who, unbeknownst to Lutchman, were cooperating with the FBI. In these communications, Lutchman made statements expressing his strong support of ISIL and his desire to travel overseas to join ISIL. He also discussed in detail his online communications with Al-Amriki and the ISIL member. In subsequent communications, Lutchman referred at various times to Individuals A, B and C as “brothers” who would be involved in the New Year’s Eve attack.

Lutchman admitted that on Dec. 27, 2015, he and Al-Amriki discussed potential targets, and Al-Amriki told Lutchman to find the most populated area and kill as many people as possible. Al-Amriki reiterated that, after the operation was done, he would vouch for Lutchman and the other participants in the attack, and he would start sending “brothers” to ISIL in Libya, to which Lutchman agreed.

Lutchman admitted that he met with Individual C on Dec. 28, 2015, and indicated that he wanted to target a club or bar and proposed that they kidnap a couple of people and kill them. Lutchman stated that they would have to wear masks during the operation in order to avoid getting caught by law enforcement authorities. As they drove by a particular restaurant/bar in Rochester, Lutchman identified it as the target of the attack.

Lutchman admitted that on the evening of Dec. 29, 2015, Lutchman and Individual C went to a store in Rochester to purchase weapons and supplies for the attack, including two black ski masks, two knives, a machete, zip-ties, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves. Lutchman told Individual C that “the operation is a go,” and noted that many victims would have to be killed. The defendant and Individual C discussed making a video before the operation, at Al-Amriki’s direction, in which they would explain their rationale for the attack and swear bayah (allegiance) to the leader of ISIL, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Lutchman said that he planned to release the video after the completion of the attack.

Lutchman admitted that on Dec. 30, 2015, he made a video pledging allegiance to ISIL and al-Baghdadi, and stated that ISIL was going to establish the caliphate in the land of Islam. In reference to the planned New Year’s Eve attack, Lutchman stated, “the blood that you spill of the Muslim overseas we gonna spill the blood of the kuffar,” and asked Allah to “make this a victory.” In the video, Lutchman covered all of his face except for his eyes and he held one index finger in the air, which is a sign commonly used by ISIL members and supporters. Immediately thereafter, law enforcement agents arrested Lutchman and recovered the items purchased by Lutchman and Individual C the previous day from Lutchman’s residence.

Lutchman has been detained in federal custody since his arrest on Dec. 30, 2015 by members of the FBI’s Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Rochester JTTF. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey of the Western District of New York, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Larry Schneider of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Kaliebe (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2017) (13-year sentence in AQAP material support attempt case)

January 11, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Justin Kaliebe, 22, of Babylon and Bay Shore, New York, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and 20 years of supervised release with special conditions (including computer monitoring, a prohibition on contact with jihadists, search conditions, mental health treatment and a curfew, among others) following his guilty plea on Feb. 8, 2013. Kaliebe pleaded guilty to both counts of a felony information, which charged him with attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A(a), and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as Ansar al-Sharia (collectively, AQAP), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1).

The sentencing was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

"With this sentence, Justin Kaliebe is being held accountable for his attempt to travel overseas to join Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and engage in violent jihad," said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. "One of our highest priorities is to protect our country by identifying, disrupting and holding accountable those who provide or attempt to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

“This case is a sobering reminder that the call to violent jihad can reach deep into our local communities. Even when given the opportunity to abandon his plan to join al-Qaeda, this defendant made clear his intentions to commit himself fully to terrorism,” stated U.S. Attorney Capers. “If not for the vigilance and commitment of our dedicated investigators, he might well have succeeded in empowering a dangerous enemy.” Mr. Capers expressed his sincere appreciation to all the members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the NYPD Intelligence Division for their work on the investigation.

“Providing material support to terrorists is a serious crime that should have serious consequences. Today’s sentencing of Justin Kaliebe shows just that. Kaliebe set out to provide material support to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2013 by attempting to travel to Yemen, after making plans months in advance. He didn’t get past JFK thanks to the hard work of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Intelligence Division,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

“Kaliebe’s commitment to join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was as alarming as it was sinister. And early in 2013, Kaliebe was arrested at John F. Kennedy airport trying to fulfill his dream of joining the jihad in Yemen. Thankfully, Kaliebe was met at the airport by NYPD detectives and FBI agents investigating his support of this terrorist group’s agenda. Thanks, as always, to those on the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District for their investigation of this case and many others,” stated Commissioner O’Neill.

According to the court filings, including sentencing memoranda, and evidence introduced during a sentencing hearing, Kaliebe attempted to travel from the U.S. to Yemen for the purpose of joining AQAP and waging violent jihad. During numerous meetings and recorded conversations and email correspondence with undercover law enforcement officers, Kaliebe explained that he had been searching for an opportunity to travel abroad and fight jihad for two years – long before Kaliebe first approached the undercover officers about his plans to join a terrorist group. Kaliebe repeatedly expressed his desire to travel to Yemen in order to join AQAP and to help carry out its violent extremist agenda.

Kaliebe also demonstrated extensive knowledge of terrorist organizations, including AQAP and al-Qaeda, and current and former leaders of those terrorist organizations. For example, Kaliebe referenced, and at times quoted, Anwar al-Awlaki, the now-deceased former member and senior leader of AQAP, as well as Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheik”), Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, and Usama Bin Laden. Further, Kaliebe demonstrated detailed knowledge of various terrorist attacks that were carried out by AQAP in Yemen, as well as other attacks carried out by al-Qaeda around the world.

According to a June 4, 2012, recorded conversation, which was admitted into evidence during the sentencing hearing, Kaliebe observed that “the crime that they would charge people like us with” was conspiracy “to kill, maim and kidnap in foreign countries,” a reference to a federal criminal statute that has previously been used to charge other individuals who departed or attempted to depart the U.S. in order to fight jihad abroad. Later, during that same conversation, Kaliebe stated that, once he arrived in Yemen, he expected to fight the “Yemeni army” and “those who are fighting against the Sharia of Allah . . . whether it’s the U.S. drones or the, their puppets, in the Yemeni army . . . or, who knows, if American agents or whatever, U.S. Special Forces . . . who they got over there.” When asked if he was afraid to die, Kaliebe responded “I wanna . . . . It’s what anyone would want, any believer would want.” During another recorded conversation described in the government’s sentencing memorandum, which took place on July 9, 2012, Kaliebe stated that he had been inspired by several sheiks, including “Sheik Usama,” “who showed how he could bring an entire nation to its knees.”

Beginning in approximately July 2012, Kaliebe saved money to finance his travel to Yemen, which he then used to apply for and purchase a U.S. passport, and to purchase an airline ticket to Oman, from where he intended to travel by land to Yemen. During a recorded meeting on July 30, 2012, Kaliebe stated that he was saving money “as a means to go to Yemen to fight jihad.”

On Dec. 26, 2012, Kaliebe sent an email in which he swore his loyalty to the leaders of AQAP and al-Qaeda, respectively, writing, “I pledge my loyalty, allegiance and fidelity to the Mujahedeen of Al-Qaa’idah in the Arabian Peninsula and its leaders, Shaykh Abu Baseer Nasir Al-Wuhayshi and Shaykh Ayman Al-Zawahiri, hafidhahum Allah! May Allah accept this from me and may he allow me to fight in his cause til the day that I leave this dunya [this world].”

On Jan. 8, 2013, Kaliebe reaffirmed his commitment to jihad, telling an NYPD Intelligence Division undercover officer, in a recorded conversation, which was also admitted into evidence during the sentencing hearing, that he understood “there’s a way out, but for me, the only way out is [martyrdom].” Additionally, Kaliebe paid homage to several terrorist leaders, telling the undercover law enforcement officer that: “[My] standard is Abu Dujana. [M]y standard is Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi. My standard is Sheik Anwar Al-Awlaki and Sheik Usama, both who bore witness to the truth with their blood.”

Finally, Kaliebe stated, “Oh Allah, please allow me, please allow me and my brother…to fight jihad in your cause oh Allah. Oh Allah, please give us one of the two victories, victory on the ground or victory through [martyrdom.]”

On Jan. 21, 2013, Kaliebe’s efforts culminated in an attempt to board a flight to Muscat, Oman at John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York. He was arrested at the airport by members of the FBI’s JTTF and the NYPD Intelligence Division. On Feb. 8, 2013, Kaliebe waived indictment and pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to AQAP and to attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Kaliebe’s co-conspirator, Marcos Alonso Zea, who also attempted to travel to Yemen to join AQAP. Once Zea’s own attempt failed, he assisted Kaliebe’s efforts to join the terrorist group. Zea was previously convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Honorable Sandra J. Feuerstein.

The government’s case is being prosecuted jointly by the National Security and Cybercrime Section, and the Long Island Criminal Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth D. DuCharme and John J. Durham for the Eastern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Kelli Andrews of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Zafar (E.D. Va. Jan. 10, 2017) (deportation to US and arrest of suspect in shooting of US diplomat in Guadalajara)

January 10, 2017

From DOJ’s press release. Note the defendant is from California.

WASHINGTON – A U.S. national was deported from Mexico to the United States and arrested yesterday on a criminal complaint charging him with the attempted murder of a diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

Zia Zafar, 31, of Chino Hills, California, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person. Zafar made his initial appearance in federal court today and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Jan. 13, 2017, before U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson of the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the criminal complaint, on Jan. 6, 2017, Zafar disguised himself and followed the Vice Consul of the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara through a parking garage to his vehicle. After the Vice Consul got into his car and drove towards the garage exit, Zafar allegedly shot him once in the chest and fled. The Vice Consul was taken to a local hospital, where he currently remains. Zafar was subsequently detained by Mexican authorities.

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

The FBI and DSS are investigating the case in close cooperation with Mexican authorities and with assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Sloan of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the government of Mexico, to include the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Procuraduria General de la Republica, Fiscalia del Estado de Jalisco and Instituto Nacional de Migracion for their extraordinary efforts, support and professionalism in responding to this incident.

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nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Ferrer (S.D. Fla. Jan. 7, 2017) (charges in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting)

January 8, 2017

The initial charges against Wifredo Ferrer include 18 USC 37 (violence at an int’l airport); 18 USC 924(c) (firearm in connection with crime of violence); and 18 USC 924(j) (same as 924(c) but including causing death by firearm).

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – An Alaska resident was arrested and charged in a federal criminal complaint in connection with the deadly shooting of multiple victims at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on January 6, 2017.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) announce the arrest of Esteban Santiago Ruiz (Santiago), 26, based on a federal criminal complaint charging him with violations of: Title 18, United States Code, Section 37(a)(1), performing an act of violence against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation that caused serious bodily injury; Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A), using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(j), causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm in the course of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c). The statutory charges authorize a maximum penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years.

Santiago will have his initial appearance Monday, January 9, 2017 at 11:00 a.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Alicia O. Valle in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office expresses our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and to all of those impacted by yesterday’s tragedy. Our Office commends the first responders, civilians and law enforcement partners who came together to provide assistance to those in need and support the ongoing investigation,” stated U.S Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “Today’s charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors. As the investigation unfolds, we will continue to pursue all leads and evidence in this matter.”

“Our condolences are with the victims of this heinous crime and their families,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “I want to ensure these families that law enforcement is working tirelessly in order to ensure justice is served.”

According to the criminal complaint, on January 6, 2017, at approximately 12:56 p.m., Santiago was present in the Terminal 2 baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when he pulled out a handgun. The area was crowded with newly-arrived passengers retrieving their luggage. Santiago started shooting, aiming at his victims’ heads until he was out of ammunition. Santiago killed five people and wounded six more. Moments later, Santiago was confronted by a BSO deputy. He dropped his handgun on the ground and was arrested by BSO deputies.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ricardo A. Del Toro with assistance from Department of Justice Trial Attorney Larry Schneider.

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