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Press Release

Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Charges

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Lionel Williams, 27, of Suffolk, Va., pleaded guilty today to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana J. Boente; Special Agent in Charge Martin Culbreth of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Chief Thomas E. Bennett of Suffolk Police, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen accepted the plea.

According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Williams attempted to send money to a person he believed was an ISIS financier on two occasions, believing the money would be used to kill. In court documents, Williams admitted his interest in ISIS began in 2014. On Dec. 3, 2015, the day after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, he bought an AK-47 assault rifle. In March 2016, he publicly declared his support for ISIS on social media, described his hope that ISIS would take over the U.S., and stated he would decapitate any law enforcement agents he caught surveilling him. After donating money to an individual he believed to be an ISIS financier - but was actually a persona adopted by an FBI employee - Williams was told his donation had helped purchase a rocket-propelled grenade. He responded with an Arabic phrase meaning, “Praise be to Allah, and Allah is the Greatest.” Later in 2016, Williams began discussing plans for a martyrdom operation with a woman living outside the U.S. He asked an FBI confidential source to send him specific types of AK-47 ammunition and told an FBI employee that his plan was for a “local” operation. Williams was arrested and charged shortly thereafter. After his arrest, he told agents he supported ISIS and believed he was part of a “holy war.”

As part of the plea agreement, Williams agreed that he will receive the statutory maximum of 20 years in prison when sentenced on December 20.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph E. DePadilla and Andrew C. Bosse, and Trial Attorneys Alicia H. Cook and Joshua D. Champagne of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

Updated August 16, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-915