Murat Kurashev, 36, of Sacramento, California, pleaded guilty to a single-count indictment charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to court documents, Kurashev attempted to provide financial support to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the Secretary of State and engages in terrorism in Syria. Between July 2020 and February 2021, Kurashev used money transfer services to send approximately $13,000 to two known couriers of an HTS fundraiser. Records obtained from the money transfer services documented multiple transactions from Kurashev to the couriers in Turkey usually in increments of $1,000. The couriers retrieved the funds often within 24 hours of transfer. Surveillance footage from money transfer businesses captured Kurashev in the midst of some of the transactions.
Law enforcement’s review of social media and encrypted mobile messaging discussions between Kurashev and the fundraiser, demonstrated that they believed that providing money in support of the HTS’s fighters was tantamount to being engaged in violent jihad. During these conversations with the fundraiser, Kurashev mentioned that he wished he could join the fight in Syria as a mujahideen and regretted that he could only provide financial support. These conversations make clear that Kurashev was fully aware of the fundraiser’s violent extremist ideology and participation and work on behalf of HTS.
Additional evidence seized by the FBI revealed that Kurashev followed the fundraiser’s online presence and various social media accounts. Some of fundraiser’s social media accounts that were viewed by Kurashev included solicitations for money to purchase military equipment, boots, clothing, firearms, and, in one case, a motorcycle. FBI forensic analysis of Kurashev’s Apple iCloud account revealed it to be replete with violent extremist content, including a video depicting HTS fighters. It appears that Kurashev watched this video while driving his work van along Interstate 80.
Kurashev faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for March 18. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch, and U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement.
The FBI is investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Heiko P. Coppola for the Eastern District of California and Trial Attorney Dmitriy Slavin of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.