André Birotte, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California
United States v. Gadahn
On October 11, 2006, in the Central District of California, Adam Gadahn, also known as “Azzam Al Amriki,” was indicted on charges of treason and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization for making a series of propaganda videotapes for al Qaeda. Gadahn is the first person to be charged by the Department of Justice with treason against the United States since the World War II era. The two-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, California, also charges Gadahn with providing material support to al Qaeda. Gadahn continues to be a fugitive who is believed to be overseas, and has been added to the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists. The Rewards for Justice Program, run by the United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Gadahn’s arrest or conviction.
United States v. Kevin James et al.
Kevin James, Levar Washington, Gregory Patterson, and Hammad Samana were indicted in the Central District of California on charges of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. armed forces and conspiracy to murder foreign government officials, interference with commerce by robbery, conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and aiding and abetting.
The investigation revealed that in or around 1997, James, while a California prison inmate, founded a radical Sunni organization called Jam’iyyat Ul-Islami Is-Saheeh (JIS). The stated goal of JIS was to target for attack any enemies of Islam or “infidels,” including the U.S. government and Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel. To this end, James published a JIS Protocol and planning documents. In 2004, Washington, who was also an inmate in the California prison system, met James. Washington became a member of JIS and upon his release from custody, began to implement a plan which had been put in place by James. As part of the plan, Washington recruited Patterson and Samana for JIS. Washington, Patterson, and Samana then conceived a jihad plan.
Using the Internet, they located the Israeli Consulate, military recruiting centers, and synagogues. The three also conducted physical surveillance of the sites. They then conceived a plan that called for an attack on certain military recruiting centers, with a martyrdom attack on a synagogue to follow. To raise money to purchase the equipment needed to successfully conduct the attacks, the three, in concert or individually, robbed a series of gas stations in the Los Angeles area.
Samana was sentenced on August 17, 2009, to 70 months in prison and three years of supervised release for pleading guilty to one count of seditious conspiracy. James was sentenced on March 6, 2009, to 16 years in prison for pleading guilty to conspiracy to wage war against the United States. Washington was sentenced on June 23, 2008, to 22 years in prison for pleading guilty to conspiracy to wage war against the United States and to using a firearm in relation to a terrorist plot. Patterson was sentenced on July 21, 2008, to 151 months in prison for pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy as well as to firearms charges.
United States v. Irving David Rubin and Earl Leslie Krugel
On August 1, 2002, a grand jury in the Central District of California returned a superseding indictment charging Irving David Rubin and Earl Leslie Krugel with a number of offenses arising from their plot to bomb the offices of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a mosque in Culver City, California, and the field office of a United States Congressman. Rubin committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial. Krugel pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, conspiracy against civil rights, and 18 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2), carrying an explosive during the course of a conspiracy to impede and intimidate a United States Congressman in the performance of his duties. Krugel was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2005.
Laura E. Duffy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California
California Man Charged with Aiding Terrorists in Somalia
In August 2010, prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 29, also known as “Ahmed” and “Emir Anwar,” a U.S. citizen and former resident of San Diego, California. The indictment alleges that Mostafa provided material support, including himself as personnel, to terrorists; conspired to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al-Shabaab; and provided material supported to al-Shabaab. Mostafa faces a potential 15 years in prison for each of the three counts in the indictment. He is not in custody and is believed to be in Somalia.
Four Men Charged with Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to Terrorists
San Diego, California residents Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, and Issa Doreh, and Anaheim, California resident Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud were charged in October and November 2010 with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al-Shabaab, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and related offenses. According to the indictment, Moalin was in direct telephone contact with Aden Hashi Ayrow, a prominent military leader of al-Shabaab. The indictment alleges that Ayrow requested money from Moalin, who coordinated fundraising efforts and money transfers with the other defendants. The four defendants are currently held without bail pending trial.
David Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut
United States v. Alan Zaleski
On March 27, 2009, a jury convicted Alan Zaleski for the unlawful possession of numerous machine guns, silencers, grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In 2006, Zaleski was found in the possession of an arsenal of weapons and explosives after a utility worker went to Zaleski’s property in Berlin, Connecticut to cut back some trees from power lines and tripped over one of several tripwires set up on the property, triggering an explosive that detonated and caused him permanent hearing loss in one ear.
During the three day search of the property that took place after the utility worker contacted law enforcement, officers seized literally hundreds of weapons that Zaleski had secreted away in various locations on the property, including fully automatic and semi-automatic machine guns, silencers, fragmentation grenades, chemical grenades, smoke grenades, homemade pipe bombs and various improvised explosive devices. Zaleski was also found in the possession of over 67,000 rounds of live ammunition, and voluminous components for making additional grenades, IEDs and bombs (including ammonium nitrate, diesel fuel and nitro methane – components used in the Oklahoma City bombing). Zaleski’s property was also found to be covered with trip wires and booby traps to repel intruders, including camouflaged boards on the ground with nails sticking up through them.
At the end of the three-day search and the “render safe procedures” performed on various explosive devices, the evidence log numbered 96 pages long. Of additional concern was that fact that Zaleski was also found in the possession of anarchist, white-supremacist, anti-Semitic and domestic terrorism-related literature, including a copy of The Turner Diaries. Zaleski also possessed dozens of how-to books on making bombs and IEDs. The case took over two years to reach trial due to extensive pre-trial litigation and hearings, including multi-day suppression hearings and hearings on various claims Zaleski made under the First and Second Amendments and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, all of which the court denied.
On February 22, 2011, after lengthy post-trial litigation, the district court sentenced Zaleski to 101 months in prison. The court subsequently ordered Zaleski’s arsenal of weapons be forfeited. His case is presently on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
United States v. Yung Tang
On October 15, 2008, Yung Tang waived indictment and pled guilty to a superseding information charging him with multiple counts relating to his possession of illegal explosives and a silencer. In January 2008, Tang was found in the possession of two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two partially assembled IEDs, two radio-controlled initiators that could be used to remotely activate IEDs, two firearm silencers, and materials for disguising a person’s appearance, while parked in a van located in the parking lot of a kindergarten and child care facility in Wallingford, Connecticut. In February and July 2008, law enforcement officers found two additional vans belonging to Tang in New York City. The first contained two more IEDs of the same appearance and design as those found in the van in Wallingford; a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol and matching silencer; and several other containers filled with explosive and incendiary chemicals. The van was parked next door to the residence of Tang's estranged wife in Brooklyn. The third van contained two more IEDs of the same appearance and design as the IEDs previously found in Wallingford and Brooklyn, as well as two WD-40 cans containing an explosive material known as thermite and a large box containing four five-gallon jugs filled with sulfuric acid. On February 12, 2009, Tang was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment
Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
Investigation of 2001 Anthrax Letter Attacks Concluded
On February 19, 2010, the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five individuals and sickened 17 others, formally concluded with the issuance of a 92-page investigative summary. This document sets forth a summary of the evidence developed in the “Amerithrax” investigation, the largest investigation into a bio-weapons attack in U.S. history. The Amerithrax investigation found that the late Dr. Bruce Ivins, a scientist at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, acted alone in planning and executing these attacks. The Amerithrax Task Force, which was comprised of roughly 25 to 30 full-time investigators from the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other law enforcement agencies, as well as prosecutors from the District of Columbia, expended hundreds of thousands of investigator work hours on this case. Their investigative efforts involved more than 10,000 witness interviews on six different continents, the execution of 80 searches, and the recovery of more than 6,000 items of potential evidence during the course of the investigation. The case involved the issuance of more than 5,750 grand jury subpoenas and the collection of 5,730 environmental samples from 60 site locations.
Members of FARC Logistical Network Successfully Prosecuted for Providing Material Support to a Terrorist Group
In a series of cases, members of the “1st Front” of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), known as the FARC, were successfully prosecuted for conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The 1st Front, consisting of hundreds of guerillas, was responsible for FARC logistical support, including providing weapons, foreign currency, and communications capabilities. Because there were no conventional land line or cell phone infrastructures in the Colombian jungles where the FARC operated, the 1st Front enabled FARC members to communicate via satellite phones or two-way battery powered high-frequency radios linked to “radio call centers,” where members would patch the radio calls into the national and international telephone networks. The FARC also used this logistical network to maintain control of and transport the hundreds of hostages it held in the dense Colombian jungle. Extradited from Colombia to the District of Columbia in 2009, members of the 1st Front were sentenced to up to 13.5 years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty. More importantly, the prosecutions severely disrupted the FARC’s operations, and directly led to the July 2008 rescue of hostages, including three Americans held for more than five years.
Chiquita Pleads Guilty to Engaging in Transactions with a Specially-Designated Global Terrorist and is Fined $25 Million
Chiquita Brands International, Inc., the world’s largest banana producer and marketer, pled guilty on March 19, 2007, to engaging in transactions with a Specially-Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita paid more than $1.7 million to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), known as the AUC, a right-wing terrorist organization. Chiquita paid more than $825,000 to the AUC after the AUC was designated by the U.S. as an SDGT and a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in the fall of 2001, making those payments a crime under U.S. law. Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million criminal fine, serve 5 years on corporate probation, and maintain an ethics and compliance program. This was the first U.S. prosecution of a multinational corporation for payments to an SDGT or an FTO.
Founding Member of Philippine Terrorist Group Sentenced to 23 Years for Hostage Taking
Madhatta Asagal Haipe, 48, a citizen of the Philippines and founding member of Al-Harakat Al-Islamiyyah, also known as the “Abu Sayyaf Group” (ASG), was sentenced on December 17, 2010, to 23 years in prison after earlier pleading guilty to four counts of hostage taking in the 1995 abduction of 16 people, including four U.S. citizens, in the Philippines. The hostages, including six young children, were abducted from a recreational area in the southern Philippines and force-marched at gunpoint up a mountainside to “Commander Haipe,” who was then the second-in-command in the ASG. Haipe announced ransom amounts and released four of the hostages – including mothers of the young children – to collect the ransom, threatening to kill the hostages if his demands were not met. The hostages were held captive for five days, until ransom was paid. Haipe was indicted in the District of Columbia in 2000. He was eventually captured and, in 2009, was extradited to the U.S. to face the charges against him. This was the first U.S. prosecution of a member of the ASG.
Iraqi-Born Dutch Citizen Sentenced to 25 Years for Insurgent Activities in Iraq
Wesam al Delaema, 36, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on April 16, 2009, after pleading guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in Iraq. While visiting Iraq in 2003, this Iraqi-Dutch national made a video with a group of insurgents who called themselves the “Mujahideen from Fallujah,” in which he and other members of the group boasted of their plans to kill Americans, and in which Delaema himself was shown unearthing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that the group had planted in Iraq. Indicted in 2005, Delaema was extradited from the Netherlands in 2007. This was the first U.S. prosecution of an Iraqi insurgent for terrorist acts against Americans.
Senior Member of FARC Terrorist Organization Sentenced to 60 Years for Hostage Taking Conspiracy
Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda, also known as “Simón Trinidad,” 56, a senior member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), known as the FARC, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on January 28, 2008, for conspiring to engage in the hostage-taking of three American citizens in Colombia. In February 2003, FARC soldiers in Colombia shot down a plane carrying five people working on a U.S. government drug interdiction project. The Colombian pilot and an American were shot dead, and three Americans were taken hostage and held prisoner in the Colombian jungle – with hundreds of other FARC captives – for over five years. The defendant was a senior FARC commander who represented the FARC in making demands for the terms of release of hostages. After being extradited to the U.S., the defendant was convicted after trial in 2007 – a trial that was held while the hostages were still being held captive in the Colombian jungles. He remains the highest-ranking FARC leader ever prosecuted in a U.S. courtroom, and his conviction and 60-year prison term were hailed by the Colombian El Tiempo newspaper as sending a “powerful message” against the FARC and terrorism. The three American hostages, with others, were safely rescued in July 2008.
Jordanian Sentenced for Bombing Aboard Flight from Tokyo to Honolulu
Mohammed Rashed, of Jordan, one of the founders of the “15 May” terrorist group, was sentenced on March 24, 2006, in connection with the 1982 bombing of Pan Am Flight 830, from Tokyo to Honolulu, which killed a Japanese teenager and resulted in the injury of several other passengers. Rashed was originally arrested in Greece in 1988. Rather than extradite Rashed to the U.S., Greece prosecuted him and eventually convicted him of murdering the Japanese passenger and of placing an explosive aboard an aircraft. Rashed served eight years of a 15-year prison sentence in Greece and then was released in December 1996. In 1998, Rashed was arrested by the FBI and transported back to the U.S. Under the terms of his sentence, Rashed will serve a total of more than 23 years in prison, including his incarceration in Greece.
Palestinian Terrorist Who Led Deadly Hijack Attempt Sentenced to 160 Years
Zaid Hassan Abd Latif Safarini, 42, was sentenced on May 13, 2004, to serve 160 years in prison for his role in leading the deadly attempted hijacking of Pan Am flight 73. On September 5, 1986, in Karachi, Pakistan, Safarini led three other armed members of the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization in seizing Pan Am flight 73 as it was boarding. The flight crew escaped, effectively grounding the plane. After a 16-hour siege, during which Safarini executed an American citizen, the hijackers tried to kill all the passengers and crew, using assault weapons and hand grenades. Twenty were killed and over 100 injured. The hijackers were apprehended and prosecuted in Pakistan, but their death sentences were commuted. Pakistan released Safarini in late September 2001, and the FBI immeditaely captured him. In 2003, Safarini pled guilty to all 95 counts of a superseding indictment and agreed to cooperate against the other hijackers if they were ever apprehended. An emotional two-day sentencing hearing was attended by over 50 victims from around the world, many of whom spoke in court about the devastating effects of this terrorist attack.
Angolan Rebel Sentenced to More Than 24 Years for his Role in Hostage Taking
Artur Tchibassa, 47, was sentenced to 24 years and 5 months in prison on February 27, 2004, after being found guilty at trial of hostage taking. In October 1990, an American aircraft mechanic was driving to his job with an oil company in the Angolan province of Cabinda, when he was taken hostage by a militarized Cabindan rebel group called the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC). The rebels held the American captive in their jungle camps for two months while negotiating with the oil company for money and military equipment. Tchibassa, a senior FLEC officer, served as the principal negotiator. After a reduced ransom was delivered, FLEC released the American hostage. In 2002, the FBI located Tchibassa in central Africa and obtained custody of him.
Three Pakistanis Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to the Pakistani Taliban
On September 12, 2011, three Pakistani citizens pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), often referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The three defendants, Irfan Ul Haq, 37, Qasim Ali, 32, and Zahid Yousaf, 43, conducted a human smuggling operation in Quito, Ecuador, that attempted to smuggle an individual whom they believed to be a member of the TTP from Pakistan into the United States. Law enforcement agents directed confidential sources in Ecuador to ask the defendants for their assistance in smuggling a fictitious person from Pakistan to the United States. During the ensuing negotiations, the defendants were made aware that the person to be smuggled was a member of the TTP who was blacklisted in Pakistan. The defendants agreed to move this person from Pakistan into the U nited States, despite his purported affiliation with the TTP. Ul Haq told the confidential sources that it was “not their concern” what the men “want to do in the United States – hard labor, sweep floor, wash dishes in a hotel, or blow up. That will be up to them.” The defendants accepted payment from the confidential sources for the smuggling operation and procured a false Pakistani passport for the purported TTP member. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in December 2011.
Jim Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois
U.S. v. Michael C. Finton
In late fall 2008, government agents learned that Michael C. Finton, also known as “Talib Islam,” was seeking military training and wanted to travel to the Gaza Strip to fight Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. Specifically, Finton stated that he wanted to secure his place in Paradise by becoming a “mujahid” (Arabic for one who wages jihad). Throughout this time, Finton repeatedly confirmed his desire to obtain terroristic, military training. He also expressed his desire to join one of a variety of terrorist organizations, depending on where he might choose to engage in jihad and attacks he was prepared to undertake.
Finton’s plan evolved over the course of months. In February 2009, Finton initiated contact with an undercover FBI employee. From then on, Finton began to advance his terrorist agenda, taking steps he thought would make him an operational foreign agent. Initially, he sought to place a backpack bomb inside the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. But, after performing surveillance, he concluded that a bigger plan was in order. Finton proposed two car bombs—the first to do the initial damage and draw in emergency responders, and the second to attack the emergency personnel. Finton also specified the location for the attack, which was directly in front of the federal building near a United States Congressman’s office. He envisioned that his attack would destroy part of the federal building and all of the Congressman's office.
With this plan in place, on September 23, 2009, the FBI provided Finton an inert car bomb. Finton drove the bomb-laden vehicle to the federal building. Just as he had planned, at the intersection of Sixth Street and Monroe Street, Finton turned the corner and parked the vehicle in a yellow, no parking area directly in front of the northwest corner of the federal building and across from the Congressman’s office. Finton got out of the vehicle, locked the door, and got into an undercover officer’s vehicle. As the two drove away, Finton attempted to remotely detonate the bomb and trigger the explosives.
Finton was promptly arrested and charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against property owned by the United States. On May 9, 2011, after protracted litigation, Finton pled guilty to the charge and was immediately sentenced to 28 years imprisonment.
Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois
Terrorism Financing Trial Results in Prison Term for Two Defendants
Abdelhaleem Ashqar was sentenced on November 21, 2007, to 11 years and three months in prison for obstruction of justice and criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury in 2003 about fundraising activities in the U.S. to support international terrorism on behalf of the Palestinian organization Hamas. Both were convicted on February 1, 2007, following a lengthy terrorism-financing trial. Co-defendant Mohammed Salah was sentenced on July 11, 2007, to 21 months in prison for lying about his activities in a civil lawsuit. A third defendant, Mousa Abu Marzook, a high-ranking Hamas leader, is a fugitive.
Chicago Man Accused of Attempting to Provide Material Support to al Shabaab
Shaker Masri, of Chicago, was arrested on August 3, 2010, and indicted on September 30, 2010, for allegedly planning to travel to Somalia and engage in fighting with al Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Masri was indicted on one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and one count of attempting to provide material support by use of a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S. Masri remains detained in federal custody while the case is pending. No trial date has been set.
Chicago Man Accused of Attempting to Provide Material Support to al Qaeda
Raja Lahrasib Khan, of Chicago, who allegedly claimed to be acquainted with a terrorist leader in Pakistan, was arrested on March 26, 2010, and indicted on April 1, 2010, for allegedly providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization after attempting to provide funds overseas to al Qaeda. A Chicago taxi driver and native of Pakistan, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, Khan allegedly discussed attacking a stadium in the U.S. during the summer, but there was no imminent domestic danger. Khan remains detained in federal custody while the case is pending. Trial is scheduled for November 7, 2011.
Director of Purported Charitable Organization Sentenced for Defrauding Donors
Enaam M. Arnaout, executive director of the Benevolence International Foundation, Inc. (BIF), a purported charitable organization based in south suburban Chicago, was sentenced on August 18, 2003, to 136 months in prison after pleading guilty in February 2003 to a racketeering conspiracy. Arnaout admitted that he fraudulently obtained charitable donations in order to provide financial assistance to persons engaged in violent activities overseas. Arnaout, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, admitted that for approximately a decade BIF defrauded donors by leading them to believe that all donations were strictly being used for peaceful, humanitarian purposes while a material amount of the funds were diverted to fighters overseas, specifically in Chechnya and Bosnia. Arnaout was re-sentenced in 2006 to 10 years in prison.
Internet Radio Host Sentenced for Threatening Federal Appeals Court Judges
Hal Turner, an Internet radio talk show host and blogger, was sentenced on December 21, 2010, to 33 months in federal prison for threatening to assault and murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago in retaliation for their 2009 ruling upholding handgun bans in Chicago and a suburb. Turner was convicted at trial in August 2010 of threatening the judges with intent to retaliate against them for performing official duties. Turner was also ordered to serve six months in home confinement after he is released from custody. He was charged in June 2009 after writing Internet postings proclaiming “outrage” over a handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stating, among other things: “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed.” The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of the judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location. The case was moved to Brooklyn, New York, where two previous trials — one in December 2009 and the second in March 2010 — ended in mistrials after the juries were deadlocked.
Chicago Man Accused in Attempted Bombing Plot
Sami Samir Hassoun, of Chicago, was arrested September 19, 2010, immediately after he allegedly placed a backpack which he thought contained an explosive device into a curbside trash receptacle near a crowded Chicago street corner. Hassoun was indicted on October 14, 2010, on one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted use of an explosive device. At no time was the public in danger during the investigation. The supposed explosive device was inert and provided to Hassoun by an undercover agent. In addition, Hassoun was under intermittent surveillance as the plot developed and the undercover agents were in regular contact with him, monitoring his activities. There was no indication that any foreign or domestic terror groups were in any way connected to this plot or inspired Hassoun. He remains detained in federal custody while the case is pending. No trial date has been set.
Rockford Man Sentenced to 35 Years for Foiled Bomb Plot
Derrick Shareef, of Rockford, Illinois, was sentenced on September 30, 2008, to 35 years in prison after he pled guilty in 2007 to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a plot to set off grenades in garbage cans at a Rockford shopping mall in December 2006. Shareef was arrested on December 6, 2006, when he met with an undercover agent at a store parking lot in Rockford to trade a set of stereo speakers for four inert hand grenades and a hand gun. The mall was among several potential targets that Shareef discussed during the course of the investigation; others included local government facilities. Shareef shared his plans with an acquaintance, who unbeknownst to him was cooperating with the FBI, and an undercover agent who was posing as the cooperating individual’s friend.
160-Year Sentence for Plot to Blow Up Federal Courthouse in Chicago
Gale Nettles was sentenced on January 12, 2006, to 160 years in prison after being convicted at trial in 2005 of attempting to contact terrorists and obtain fertilizer to make explosives as part of a plot to blow up the federal courthouse in Chicago. Nettles was convicted of attempted mass murder as a result of an investigation in which he was plotting with an undercover federal agent posing as a terrorist connected to al Qaeda.
White-Supremacist Leader Sentenced for Soliciting Murder of a Federal Judge
Matthew Hale, of East Peoria, Illinois, a white-supremacist leader, was sentenced on April 6, 2005, to the maximum of 40 years in prison after being convicted at trial in April 2004 of soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago. A jury convicted Hale of soliciting his security chief, who unbeknownst to him was working with the FBI, to kill the judge after she ordered Hale’s group, the World Church of the Creator, to change its name after losing a trademark infringement lawsuit.
Government Appealing in Case of White-Supremacist for Threatening a Juror
The government is appealing a trial judge’s April 2011 ruling overturning a jury’s guilty verdict against William A. White, of Roanoke, Virginia, a self-proclaimed white-supremacist who was convicted on January 5, 2011, of soliciting violence to the foreman of a federal jury in Chicago that convicted another white-supremacist, Matthew Hale, in 2004. After the trial judge initially dismissed the indictment against White, a federal appeals court reinstated the solicitation charge. The guilty verdict was White’s second federal conviction in little more than a year. He is currently serving a 30-month federal sentence that was imposed in April 2010 after a federal jury in Roanoke convicted him in December 2009 of three counts of communicating threats in interstate commerce and one count of witness intimidation. The government will file its appellate brief this fall.
Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland
United States v. Brahim Lajqi
On February 28, 2011, the defendant appeared before United States District Judge Roger W. Titus for sentencing. The defendant previously entered a guilty plea to visa fraud, a felony that carried a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment, but which had an advisory sentencing guideline range of only zero to six months. In the plea agreement, however, the United States made it clear it would seek an enhanced sentence of five years imprisonment pursuant to factors contained within 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), specifically due to the defendant’s repeated statements that he wanted to commit terrorist acts in the United States and due to his conduct, which included two reconnaissance trips to Washington, D.C. and a trip to West Virginia to obtain a commercial driver’s license that would enable him to transport weapons he intended to obtain and transport to Maryland.
During the sentencing hearing, the district court made specific findings of fact in agreeing with the United States that a sentence of five years imprisonment was appropriate. In particular, the court noted that the defendant, an ethnic Albanian from the area in former Yugoslavia known as Kosovo, began harboring “harsh feelings” toward the United States following the death of family members during the Kosovo conflict, threatening to slaughter “kufar” (used to describe those who do not adhere to the Islamic faith) and to “get even with the United States and Kufar Armies.” Most importantly, the court relied upon the following specific statements evidencing the defendant’s intent to carry out terrorist acts in support of his beliefs: “a good bomb on Capitol Hill and the White House maybe Capitol Hill more because lots of Jews live [there]; “go inside the building [Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C.] and leave [a bomb] in the middle of the building and then go outside and detonate it.” The court noted that the defendant not only made these and other statements evidencing his violent intent, but he conducted reconnaissance missions in planning his intended attacks. In summarizing its reasons for granting the United States’ request for an enhanced sentence, the court noted that the defendant “appeared to be engaging in a conspiracy to commit [acts of terrorism]” and to that end, “articulated repeatedly and consistently an intention to take the most serious type of terrorist activities, including blowing up the White House, the Treasury building, the U.S. Capitol, and a Metro station.” The defendant has appealed his sentence to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This four-month investigation by members of the Maryland Joint Terrorism Task Force and Assistant United States Attorneys of the District of Maryland’s National Security Section was an excellent example of the successful implementation of the Justice Department’s policy of aggressively using all lawful tools at our disposal to prevent terrorist acts. Although there was not sufficient admissible evidence to charge the defendant with anything more than a crime that ordinarily would not result in incarceration, the United States Attorney’s Office developed a disruption plan that was submitted to, and approved by, the Department’s National Security Division that prevented the defendant from committing his planned acts of terrorism.
United States v. Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain
On December 8, 2010, the defendant was arrested by members of the Maryland Joint Terrorism Task Force after allegedly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal property and with allegedly attempting to murder federal officers and employees in connection with a scheme to attack an Armed Forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Maryland. His arrest came after he allegedly attempted to remotely detonate what he believed to be explosives in a vehicle parked in the Armed Forces recruiting station parking lot. On December 21, 2010, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the defendant with these same offenses. Trial is scheduled to begin on December 5, 2011. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment for attempting to murder federal officers and employees and life in prison for the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against federal property.
Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan
United States v. David Stone et al.
On March 29, 2010, in the Eastern District of Michigan, nine individuals, acting as a militia group called the Hutaree, were charged with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing firearms during a crime of violence. Additional charges of possessing illegal weapons, including machine guns, were later added in a superseding indictment. According to the indictment, the Hutaree viewed members of federal, state, and local law enforcement as “the brotherhood,” their enemy, and were planning to engage them in armed conflict. The indictment alleges that the Hutaree planned to kill a law enforcement officer and then attack the law enforcement officers who gathered for the funeral, using improvised explosive devices.
United States v. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
On December 15, 2010, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was indicted in a superseding indictment on eight counts related to his attempt to detonate a bomb on an aircraft on Christmas Day 2009. He is charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, attempted murder, wilfully placing an explosive device onboard a civil aircraft, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, willful attempt to wreck and destroy an aircraft, and three counts of possession of an explosive device during a crime of violence. The indictment alleges that Abdulmutallab concealed a bomb in his underwear containing the high explosives TATP and PETN. Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the bomb prior to landing and while over the United States, but the bomb did not fully function, resulting in a fire which burned Abdulmutallab and the interior of the aircraft. Abdulmutallab was restrained by passengers and flight crew, who extinguished the fire. As he fired his court appointed attorneys, he will be representing himself at his October 2011 trial.
Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey
Four Al Qaeda-inspired Men Sentenced to Life in Prison for Conspiring to Murder Members of the Military at a Military Base
In April 2009, four men were sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to kill members of the United States military at Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey and elsewhere. Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer and brothers Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, and Eljvir Duka were sentenced to life in prison following a trial by jury. A fifth man, Serdar Tatar, was sentenced to 33 years in prison following his jury conviction for conspiring to murder members of the United States military. The jury also returned guilty verdicts concerning related weapons offenses against some of the defendants.
On May 7, 2007, law enforcement officers arrested the defendants following a firearms buy-bust operation that was the culmination of an 18-month investigation. Each of the defendants were radicalized in the United States as young adults through propaganda videos produced by al Qaeda as well as by the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki and others. During that time, the group had conducted surveillance of several military bases including Fort Dix, and had engaged in weapons and paint-ball training in the Pocono Mountains and elsewhere. In furtherance of their plan, the conspirators had also arranged to purchase various weapons, including AK- 47 and M-16 assault rifles and an assortment of handguns, weapons which were in addition to the firearms they already possessed illegally. One member of the group had conducted surveillance at Fort Dix and Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the United States Coast Guard in Philadelphia. Another had obtained a detailed map of Fort Dix, where the group had hoped to use assault rifles to kill as many soldiers as possible.
During the trial, the jury listened to hundreds of hours of recordings, during which the defendants spoke of their duty to conduct such an attack and talked about ways to prepare for the attack and how they could acquire additional weapons. The jury also viewed secretly recorded videotapes of the defendants performing small-arms training at a shooting range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, watching numerous al Qaeda produced training videos that included depictions of American soldiers being killed and of known foreign Islamic radicals urging jihad against the United States, and attempting to apply concepts from those videos to their own preparations.
The case is pending appeal.
Two Men Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Kill Overseas for Al Shabaab
Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to murder individuals overseas on behalf of Al Shabaab, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. As applied to the defendants, the charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison.
The defendants admitted during their guilty plea colloquy that their preparations included: saving and pooling thousands of dollars; physically conditioning themselves by, among other things, lifting weights and running; engaging in combat simulations; and acquiring tactical clothing and hydration systems. Law enforcement arrested the defendants as they attempted to board separate international flights at JFK International Airport in New York.
The defendants are awaiting sentencing.
Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York
United States v. Sathajhan Sarachandran et al.
On January 22, 2010, in the Eastern District of New York, Sathajhan Sarachandran and Nadarasa Yogarasa were sentenced to 26 and 14 years in prison, respectively, after they pled guilty to charges relating to their efforts to acquire high powered weapons for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Sarachandran pled guilty to providing, conspiring to provide, and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE, and conspiring and attempting to acquire guided surface-to-air missiles and missile launchers. Yogarasa pled guilty to attempting to provide material support to the LTTE and conspiring to do so. On January 25, 2010, also in the Eastern District of New York, Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam were sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE and conspiring and attempting to acquire guided surface-to-air missiles and launchers. The four LTTE operatives were arrested after they attempted to purchase and export approximately $1 million in high-powered weaponry for the LTTE, including 20 SA-18 heat-seeking missiles, ten missile launchers, 500 AK 47s and other military equipment, from an undercover FBI agent. The group was acting at the direction of senior LTTE leadership.
United States v. Betim Kaziu and Sulejmah Hadzovic
On July 7, 2011, a jury in the Eastern District of New York convicted Betim Kaziu of conspiring to commit murder overseas, conspiring to provide material support to terrorism, attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiring to use a machine gun in furtherance of those crimes. In February 2009, Kaziu and his associate, Sulejmah Hadzovic, traveled from Brooklyn to Cairo, Egypt in order to wage violent jihad against United States troops in the Middle East and the Balkans. Hadzovic decided to return to the United States, and Kaziu traveled to Kosovo in an effort to target American troops stationed there, or to travel onward to Pakistan to join al Qaeda. Kaziu and Hadzovich had been radicalized, in part, by Internet speeches by Anwar al-Awlaki and propaganda videos produced by al Qaeda and Al Shabaab. Kaziu was arrested by the Kosovo Police Service on August 27, 2009, and transferred to American custody to face charges. Kaziu’s sentencing has been scheduled for November 4, 2011. Hadzovic pled guilty on August 26, 2009, and is also awaiting sentencing.
United States v. Karunakaran Kandasamy et al.
On June 9, 2009, Karunakaran Kandasamy, Pratheepan Thavaraja, Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy, and Vijayshanthar Patpanathan pled guilty in the Eastern District of New York to, among other crimes, conspiring to provide material support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Kandasamy was the director of the American branch of the LTTE, which operated through charitable front organizations, including the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO). As the director of the American branch, Kandasamy oversaw and directed the LTTE’s various activities in the United States, including raising millions of dollars for the LTTE and laundering it through the TRO. Patpanathan assisted Kandasamy and others in these fundraising and money laundering activities. Thavaraja was a senior procurement agent for the LTTE, involved in the purchase of improvised explosive devices, missiles, machine guns, artillery, radar, and other equipment and technology from countries around the world, including the United States. A single spreadsheet of “priority” items to purchase, which was found in Pratheepan’s laptop computer, totaled $20 million in arms and equipment, and included, among other things, “25mm Anti Aircraft Gun[s],” “30 mm Twin Barrel Mounted Naval Gun[s],” thousands of automatic rifles, grenade launchers, 50 tons of C4 explosive, and other weapons. Thavaraja and Vinayagamoorthy also attempted to bribe purported U.S. State Department officials to remove the LTTE from the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
United States v. Khalid Awan et al.
On December 20, 2006, Khalid Awan was convicted in the Eastern District of New York of providing money and financial services to the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), a terrorist organization responsible for thousands of deaths in India since its founding in 1986. Awan sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to KCF, which is comprised of Sikh militants who seek to establish a separate Sikh state in the Punjab region of India. The organization has engaged in numerous assassinations of prominent Indian government officials–including the murder of Chief Minister Beant Singh of Punjab in 1995–and hundreds of bombings, acts of sabotage, and kidnappings. On October 3, 2007, Awan was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. On June 14, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the sentence because the district court had incorrectly refused to apply the “terrorism” enhancement of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and remanded for re-sentencing. Awan is currently awaiting re-sentencing.
United States v. Russell Defreitas et al
On May 26, 2011, in the Eastern District of New York, Kareem Ibrahim was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to attack a public transportation system, conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials, conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities, and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility. On August 2, 2010, Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir were convicted on the same charges after a six-week trial. Ibrahim, a Shiite Imam from Trinidad and Tobago, was part of a plot along with Defreitas, Kadir, Abdel Nur, and Donald Nero to bomb the fuel tanks and fuel pipeline of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, New York. Ibrahim advised the plotters to contact leaders in Iran to obtain assistance, and the plotters also tried to enlist support from Adnan El Shukrijumah, an al Qaeda explosives expert, and Yasin Abu Bakr, a leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat Al Muslimeen. Kadir was arrested en route to Iran, where he planned to meet with his contacts in the Iranian revolutionary leadership regarding the JFK bombing plot, including Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian official indicted for his leading role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kadir and Defreitas were sentenced to life in prison. Nur pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Ibrahim awaits sentencing, as does Nero, who pled guilty and testified against his coconspirators.
United States v. Lin Mun Poo
On April 13, 2011, Lin Mun Poo, a Malaysian computer hacker, was convicted in the Eastern District of New York of trafficking in counterfeit credit and debit cards, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1029(a)(3) and 1029(c)(1)(A)(i) . Poo is responsible for hacking computer systems for United States defense contractors, financial institutions and major corporations. In 2010, Poo compromised the United States Federal Reserve Bank's computer servers, installing malicious keystroke-logging software. On October 21, 2010, he traveled to the United States for the purpose of obtaining additional stolen financial account information from other hackers, which he planned to use and sell for his own profit. When he was arrested a few hours after his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Secret Service agents seized his encrypted laptop computer, which contained financial account data and personal identifying information for thousands of individuals that he had obtained by hacking into various computer systems. Poo is currently awaiting sentencing.
United States v. Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay
On January 8, 2007, in the Eastern District of New York, Shahawar Matin Siraj was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in planning to bomb the 34th Street subway station in Manhattan. His co-conspirator, James Elshafay, who testified against Siraj at trial after pleading guilty, received a five year sentence. The two men conspired to bomb the subway station on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention in order to disrupt the United States economy and kill United States nationals. They conducted surveillance and drew maps of the subway station to determine where best to place explosives in order to maximize the damage inflicted. After the conspiracy was infiltrated by an New York City Police Department informant, the two men were arrested three days before the convention. After a five-week trial, Siraj was convicted by a jury on all charges
United States v. Noureddine Malki
On February 14, 2007, a U.S. Army contract translator whose true name is unknown, but who used the name “Noureddine Malki,” pled guilty to illegally possessing national defense documents. Malki used a false identity to procure his United States citizenship and to gain access to classified military materials as an Arabic translator for a translation service for U.S. military personnel in Iraq. During assignments in Iraq, Malki took various classified documents from the U.S. Army without authorization. Some of the documents included the Army’s plans regarding operations against insurgent locations, and a classified battle map identifying U.S. troop routes during the 2004 battle of Najaf. On May 19, 2008, Malki was sentenced to 121 months imprisonment. Because the appellate court subsequently found that the district court applied the wrong sentencing guidelines, Malki will be re-sentenced on September 26, 2011.
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
On May 21, 2009, President Obama announced the transfer of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to the United States from Guantánamo Bay to be tried in the Southern District of New York. Ghailani was an al Qaeda operative accused of participating in the near-simultaneous 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and injured thousands more. At the end of 2010, Ghailani was convicted following an extremely hard-fought jury trial in the Southern District of New York, and he is now serving a life sentence at the Bureau of Prisons’ Administrative Maximum facility in Florence, Colorado.
In July 2004, Ghailani was captured in northern Pakistan by Pakistani authorities, after a 14-hour gun battle. He was then held in CIA custody, at a “black site,” until September 2006, when he was moved to Guantánamo Bay. Ghailani then was detained at Guantánamo for nearly three years, before being transferred to the Southern District of New York in June 2009.
As an initial matter, the Ghailani case presented a set of very difficult legal issues, many of which have never before arisen in federal court. We litigated and won two separate motions to dismiss the case. The first was a constitutional Speedy Trial challenge, based on the argument that the United States held Ghailani for nearly five years before bringing him to trial. The second was a motion to dismiss the indictment based upon purportedly “outrageous Government misconduct.” That motion was based principally on the fact that the defendant had been subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” while in CIA custody. Both motions were denied.
While the legal issues were being intensely briefed and argued, agents and prosecutors fanned out around the world to prepare for trial. The case against Ghailani was a difficult one; the useable evidence was mainly circumstantial, and the crimes in question had been committed on the other side of the globe in Africa, more than twelve years earlier. In addition, a number of important witnesses had died since 1998; some pivotal physical evidence had been lost by Tanzanian law enforcement; and certain witnesses announced that they were unwilling to testify for the United States.
But agents and prosecutors worked closely together to prepare a compelling case. Crates of musty physical evidence — fraying documents that bore explosive residue, for example — were closely re-analyzed in New York and prepared for trial presentation. Agents and prosecutors traveled repeatedly together to East Africa, typically for weeks on end, interviewing and re-interviewing hundreds of civilian witnesses. Without the benefit of subpoena power or any other form of compulsion, the team painstakingly worked to build trust and to convince scores of Swahili-speaking civilian witnesses — one by one, often in quiet conversations in their homes — to journey from Tanzania or Kenya, to testify against an al Qaeda operative in a closely-watched American trial.
The fruits of this work were on display during the fall of 2010, in Manhattan federal court. After more than a year of intense preparation, a challenging jury trial ensued, with Ghailani ably represented by six defense lawyers. Huge volumes of evidence were presented using state-of-the-art technology, and scores of witnesses testified for the prosecution, including a former al Qaeda operative now in the Witness Security Program. And each week, at the conclusion of the trial day, the prosecutors spoke with victims who had been flown in from Africa and elsewhere to observe the case. After more than five weeks of trial, while acquitted of many counts, Ghailani was convicted of conspiring to destroy federal property with explosives; the jury also found that his conduct directly and proximately led to the death of others— a conviction which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, and a potential life sentence.
Following repeated rounds of post-trial briefing, the sentencing proceeding brought to the courthouse numerous victims of the defendant’s crimes. Agents and prosecutors had spent years (in many cases over a decade) keeping in close touch with the victims, and updating them regularly on the progress of the case. Eleven victims from Africa and America addressed the court, and on January 25, 2011, Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison — which he is now serving in Florence, Colorado.
William Hochul, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York
United States v. Mohamed Albanna et al.
Mohamed Albanna, Ali Albanna, and Ali Taher Elbaneh were charged in a five-count indictment with, among other things, conspiring to operate and operating an illegal money transmitting business, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1960. From in or about November 2001 to December 2002, his illegal business was responsible for transmitting more than $3.5 million to the Republic of Yemen from Queen City Cigarettes and Candy, which is located in Buffalo, New York. The former Imam of the Lackawanna mosque used this illegal business to send approximately $1,800 to Sheik Al-Moayad in Yemen. In addition, a member of the Lackawanna Six utilized the illegal business to send money to an al Qaeda recruiter. Mohamed Albanna, the owner of Queen City Cigarettes and Candy and a community leader, was sentenced to five years imprisonment as a result of his conviction for operating an illegal money transmitting business.
United States v. John Mikula
In June 2004, John Mikula sent his sister a “Last Will and Testament,” in which he claimed an affiliation with the Army of God. The Army of God is a well-known group that advocates the use of violence, including murder, to stop abortions. Mikula later told his sister during a telephone conversation that he had been conducting surveillance on abortion clinics and was going to kill an abortion escort.
Mikula was later arrested by Cheektowaga Police Officers and found in possession of a document entitled “Operation: Army of God (AOG) - Memorial Day 2004.” The Army of God document included a column labeled “jobs.” Under this column, the following items were listed: pipes, mailbox remote, timer, and silencer. The document also listed a well-known abortion provider and made reference to an abortion escort who works at an abortion clinic in Buffalo. A subsequent search of Mikula’s residence resulted in the seizure of, among other things, two firearms, and materials which could be used to constitute a pipe bomb, but Mikula had not taken the necessary steps to create a pipe bomb. Mikula was later charged and convicted of being an unlawful user of marijuana in possession of firearms.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
United States v. Ali Al-Timimi et al.
During the years leading up to September 11 and thereafter, a group of individuals, who came to be known as the “Virginia Jihad,” actively recruited and trained Muslims in the Eastern District of Virginia and encouraged them to travel to Kashmir and other overseas locations to engage in violent jihad as part of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a designated foreign terrorist organization that has since been identified as responsible for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. In 2004 and 2005, multi-week trials of approximately 10 defendants took place in Alexandria, Virginia. The Virginia Jihad defendants, and their leader, Ali Al-Timimi, were convicted of various terrorism and firearms-related offenses, including the use of automatic weapons while training in Pakistan and received sentences ranging up to life imprisonment.
United States v. Ali Asad Chandia
Ali Asad Chandia was affiliated with the “Virginia Jihad.” Chandia traveled to Pakistan as part of his efforts at jihad and shipped items there from the United States, including 50,000 paint balls to be used by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for training. He also met with, and hosted a visit to the United States by, an LeT operative based in the United Kingdom. Following a trial in 2006, Chandia was convicted of multiple conspiracy and substantive charges of providing material support to terrorists and to the terrorist organization LeT. Chandia was sentenced to a term of 15 years of imprisonment.
United States v. Zachary Chesser
Zachary Chesser was a resident of the Eastern District of Virginia and an American convert to Islamic extremism. Chesser became an avid supporter of the designated foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab in Somalia. Two times Chesser unsuccessfully attempted to travel to Somalia to join the terrorist group. Chesser also posted prolific jihadist messages on the Internet, threatening the lives of the creators of the television show South Park and of the Facebook supporters of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Chesser solicited others to engage in hoax bomb threats by leaving suspicious-looking packages in public places. He pleaded guilty in February 2011 to charges of communicating threats over the Internet, soliciting hoax threats, and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and was sentenced to a term of 25 years of imprisonment.
United States v. Farooque Ahmed
Farooque Ahmed was a homegrown extremist who sought to engage in terrorist attacks on behalf of al Qaeda. Ahmed met with undercover law enforcement agents whom he believed to be members of al-Qaeda and provided information for planting explosives in specific Metrorail stations in northern Virginia. In April 2011, Ahmed pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization as well as to collecting information for planning terrorist attacks on a transit facility. Ahmed was sentenced to a term of 23 years of imprisonment.
United States v. Emerson Begolly
Emerson Begolly, a resident of New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was an active administrator of the internationally-known, Islamic extremist website, Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum. There, he placed a number of postings soliciting others to commit crimes of violence within the United States against such targets as police stations, post offices, synagogues, military facilities, and transportation facilities. In furtherance of such attacks, Begolly also posted a link to a lengthy document containing detailed steps on how to manufacture explosives. Begolly was indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia in July 2011 for solicitation to commit a crime of violence and distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction. He was also charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania with assaulting a law enforcement officer and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. On August 9, 2011, Begolly pleaded guilty to soliciting crimes of violence and to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. These crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum consecutive sentence of five years of imprisonment respectively. Sentencing is scheduled for November 29, 2011.
United States v. Abu Ali
A jury convicted Ahmed Omar Abu Ali of nine charges arising from his affiliation with an al-Qaeda terrorist cell located in Medina, Saudi Arabia, and its plans to carry out a number of terrorist acts in this country, including assassinating President George W. Bush. Abu Ali, an American citizen who lived in Virginia, was captured in Saudi Arabia and returned to the United States for trial. Abu Ali was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment.
United States v. John Walker Lindh
Following his capture in Takhar, Afghanistan in November 2001, John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban,” was brought to the Eastern District of Virginia to face prosecution for his role in fighting with the Taliban regime against Northern Alliance troops. Lindh had attended al-Farooq training camp, where he received training in weapons, explosives, and combat. Lindh pleaded guilty to charges related to his use of explosives and in aiding the Taliban and received a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
United States v. Iyman Faris
Iyman Faris was an Ohio-based truck driver and Pakistani national who had used a false identity to illegally enter the United States in the 1990s. Thereafter, he settled in the Columbus, Ohio area and became a commercial truck driver. During one of many pre-9/11 trips to his native Pakistan, Faris accompanied an acquaintance to an al Qaeda training camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was personally introduced to Usama bin Laden. He subsequently met Khalid Sheik Mohammed and was tasked by the 9/11 mastermind to provide research on ultra-light airplanes and conduct surveillance on the Brooklyn Bridge as a possible target of attack by al Qaeda. Faris pled guilty in Alexandria to multiple counts involving material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and was sentenced in October 2003 to 20 years’ imprisonment.