nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Elshinawy (D. Maryland Aug. 15, 2017) (guilty plea in Islamic State material support case)

August 16, 2017

Press release below, and indictment attached:

WASHINGTON – Mohamed Elshinawy, 32, of Edgewood, Md., pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization; providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS terrorism financing; and making false statements in connection with a terrorism matter.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney of the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning and Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Office.

According to the plea agreement, Elshinawy conspired with others to knowingly provide material support and resources to ISIS, knowing that ISIS was a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. From February 2015 through about Dec. 11, 2015, in Maryland and elsewhere, Elshinawy conspired with others to provide material support and resources, including personnel, services (including means and methods of communication), and financial services, to ISIS. Elshinawy and his co-conspirators utilized various methods of secret communication in order to conceal their criminal association and activities from law enforcement.

As a part of the conspiracy, Elshinawy expressed his support for an Islamic caliphate and his belief in the legitimacy of ISIS. In addition, he expressed his hope that ISIS would be victorious and its enemies defeated, and discussed his readiness to travel to live in the Islamic State. In various other conversations, Elshinawy pledged his allegiance to ISIS, described himself as its soldier, committed to making violent jihad, and asked that others convey his message of loyalty to ISIS leadership.

Elshinawy also received payments from a foreign company totaling $8,700 to be used to fund a terrorist attack in the U.S.

In an interview with FBI agents on July 17, 2015, in an effort to conceal and minimize his criminal involvement with ISIS, Elshinawy provided false information regarding the total amount of money he had received from ISIS operatives and claimed his intent was to defraud ISIS of funds. Throughout his interviews, Elshinawy mischaracterized the true nature and extent of his association with ISIS operatives and the support he had provided to ISIS.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to provide and for providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization is 20 years in prison; the maximum sentence for collection of terrorism financing is 20 years in prison; and the maximum sentence for making false statements in a terrorism matter is eight years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. Elshinawy’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Elshinawy has been detained since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2015, on related charges.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine Manuelian and Kenneth Clark and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

###

17-911

DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, PLEASE USE THE CONTACTS IN THE MESSAGE OR CALL THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT 202-514-2007.

Indictment – Elshinawy.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Darnell (W.D. Okl. Aug. 14, 2017) (arrest for attempted bombing of federal building in Tim McVeigh-type domestic terrorism case)

August 14, 2017

Extra-horrifying given the intentional mirroring of the 1995 OKC bombing and also the resonance with the terrorism in Charlottesville.

WASHINGTON – Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, of Sayre, Oklahoma, was arrested early Saturday morning in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at BancFirst, 101 N. Broadway, in downtown Oklahoma City, announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the Western District of Oklahoma yesterday, the FBI arrested Varnell at approximately 1:00 am on August 12, 2017, after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van he had parked in an alley next to BancFirst. The complaint alleges that Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was upset with the government.

The complaint explains that after Varnell’s intentions came to the attention of law enforcement, an undercover FBI agent posed as a person who could assist him. According to the complaint, Varnell took a series of actions to advance his plot. He identified BancFirst as the target, prepared a statement to be posted on social media after the explosion, helped assemble the device, helped load it into what he believed was a stolen van, drove the van by himself from El Reno to BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City, and dialed a number on a cellular telephone that he believed would trigger the explosion.

Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Oklahoma City today at 3:00 pm.

This arrest is the culmination of a long-term domestic terrorism investigation involving an undercover operation, during which Varnell had been monitored closely for months as the alleged bomb plot developed. The device was actually inert, and the public was not in danger. “There was never a concern that our community’s safety or security was at risk during this investigation,” said Kathryn Peterson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oklahoma. “I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell’s actions monitored every step of the way.”

U.S. Attorney Yancey said: “I commend the devoted work of the FBI and our state law enforcement partners in ensuring that violent plots of this kind never succeed.”

The investigation was conducted by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, including members from the Oklahoma City FBI; Homeland Security Investigations, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Oklahoma City Police Department; the Edmond Police Department; the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI worked in conjunction with BancFirst during the investigation. Oklahoma District Attorney Angela Marsee, of District 2, also provided assistance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Dillon, with assistance from the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.

Reference is made to court records for further information. The public is reminded that this complaint is only an allegation and that Varnell is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

**END**

(Do not reply – this is an unattended email)

Varnell complaint.pdf


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Das (D. Maryland Aug. 8, 2017) (superseding indictment in IS material support case)

August 8, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

MARYLAND MAN CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTING TO PROVIDE MATERIAL SUPPORT TO ISIS AND ATTEMPTED MURDER

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury charged Nelash Das, age 25, a citizen of Bangladesh previously residing in Landover Hills, Maryland, today with attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization; attempting to murder a federal employee; and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The defendant previously had been indicted on the material support charge. The defendant remains detained pending further court proceedings.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning for the District of Maryland and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office made the announcement.

The superseding indictment alleges that from October 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016, Das knowingly attempted to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, namely ISIS. The superseding indictment further alleges that Das knew that ISIS is a designated foreign terrorist organization and engages in terrorist activity. The superseding indictment charges Das with attempting to murder a federal employee – an individual who was a member of the uniformed services and a Special Agent with the FBI. The superseding indictment also charges Das with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to the material support and attempted murder charges. Das is a legal permanent resident.

According to court documents, ISIS members and supporters have posted identifying information about U.S. military personnel in hopes that ISIS supporters would carry out attacks against them. Das allegedly planned to kill a U.S. military member in support of ISIS.

If convicted, Das faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A superseding indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by superseding indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 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 after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Schenning commended the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for its work on the investigation and thanked the prosecutors that are handling the matter.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. McNeil (N.D.Ohio Aug. 2, 2017) (20-year sentence in IS-related murder solicitation case)

August 2, 2017

From DOJ’s press release:

WASHINGTON – Terrence J. McNeil, 24, of Akron, Ohio, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for soliciting the murder of members of the U.S. military. McNeil pleaded guilty earlier this year to five counts of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and five counts of making threatening interstate communications.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division made the announcement.

“With this sentence, McNeil is being held accountable for disseminating ISIS’s violent rhetoric, circulating U.S. military personnel information and explicitly calling for the killing of American service members in their homes and communities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “The National Security Division will continue to investigate and prosecute those who use social media to threaten acts of violence against our military members and their families, on behalf of terrorist organizations.”

“This defendant was dedicated to attacking members of the military here in the United States,” Acting U.S. Attorney Sierleja said. “This kind of fanaticism is dangerous and will be aggressively prosecuted.”

“It is reassuring knowing that Terrence McNeil will spend a significant amount of time behind bars for the crimes he committed. The FBI will continue to aggressively defend First Amendment rights, however in this case, McNeil went far beyond free speech by reposting names and addresses of 100 U.S. service members, all with the intent to have them killed,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “The FBI will remain vigilant in our efforts to stop those who wish to support these despicable acts.”

According to documents filed in the case:

McNeil professed his support on social media on numerous occasions for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a designated foreign terrorist organization. On or about Sept. 24, 2015, using a Tumblr account, McNeil reblogged a file with the banner “Islamic State Hacking Division,” followed by “Target: United States Military” and “Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel.”

The file type is a .gif file, which allows multiple still images to be looped in one file, with a timed delay between each image. The text of the first file reads “O Brothers in America, know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the Khilafah, it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam…Know that it is wajib (translated to “necessary”) for you to kill these kuffar! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe…”

The file then loops several dozen photographs, purportedly of U.S. military personnel, along with their respective name, address and military branch. The final image looped is a picture of a handgun and a knife with text that reads “…and kill them wherever you find them…”

The defendant posted multiple other kill lists in late 2015, all of which repeated the same refrain, calling on others to seek out and murder U.S. servicemen and women.

McNeil also researched the price online of firearms for sale and possessed detailed bomb-making instructions, according to court documents.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Cleveland investigated this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christos Georgalis and Michelle Baeppler of the Northern District of Ohio, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.


nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Jijakli (C.D. Cal. Aug. 1, 2017) (IEEPA and smuggling indictment involving export of arms to Syria)

August 1, 2017

Love saying “IEEPA”… press release details below.

WASHINGTON – Rasheed Al Jijakli, 56, the chief executive officer of an Orange County, California check cashing business, was arrested this morning on federal charges that accuse him of procuring and illegally exporting rifle scopes, laser boresighters and other tactical equipment from the U.S. to Syria, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Jijakli is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on a three-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on July 14. The indictment was unsealed this morning after Jijakli was taken into custody without incident by law enforcement authorities.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California made the announcement.

The indictment accuses Jijakli, a naturalized U.S. citizen, of violating IEEPA, which authorizes the President of the U.S. to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country in response to an unusual or extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S. In accordance with that authority, the President issued an executive order that included broad restrictions on exports to Syria. The U.S. Department of Commerce subsequently issued corresponding regulations restricting exports to Syria of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations. Jijakli also faces charges of conspiring to violate IEEPA and smuggling.

From January 2012 through March 2013, Jijakli and three other individuals purchased and smuggled export-controlled items to Syria without obtaining licenses from the Department of Commerce. Jijakli and others allegedly hand-carried the items through Istanbul, Turkey and provided them to fighters in Syria. Those items allegedly included day-and night-vision rifle scopes, laser boresighters (tools used to adjust sights on firearms for accuracy when firing), flashlights, radios, a bulletproof vest and other tactical equipment.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. If convicted of all three charges in the indictment, Jijakli would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section of the Central District of California, and Trial Attorney Christian Ford of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.