MS-13 Gang Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison for Racketeering Charges Including the Murder of 16-Year-Old Victim in Alley Pond Park in Queens
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was sentenced by United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis to life imprisonment plus seventy years for providing material support to ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization, that resulted in death. Asainov was also sentenced to concurrent terms of 20 years’ imprisonment on related convictions of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS and obstruction of justice, and 10 years’ imprisonment for receipt of military-type training from ISIS. Today’s sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. Asainov was convicted by a federal jury after a three-week trial in February 2023.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations New York (HSI), and Edward A. Caban, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.
“Today’s sentence rightly holds Asainov responsible for the carnage he inflicted as a sworn member of ISIS and protects the world community from this avowed killer,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The defendant committed his life to that terrorist organization and became a lethal sniper for ISIS in Syria, training many other ISIS members to shoot to kill as ISIS waged its brutal, barbaric campaign. To this day, the defendant maintains his unrepentant allegiance to that hateful cause. Like this defendant now knows, anyone who takes up arms in service of ISIS and causes death and destruction will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by this Office.”
“Mr. Asainov abandoned his family and country to fight for ISIS and train others to carry out its reign of terror, a cause to which he remains devoted to this day,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “Now, he is being held accountable for his crimes with a sentence of life in prison. The Department of Justice is committed to bringing to justice those who would aid such murderous terrorist organizations.”
“The world is undoubtedly safer with Ruslan Maratovich Asainov behind bars," stated HSI New York Special Agent-in-Charge Arvelo. “Mr. Asainov pledged himself to ISIS, committed unconscionable acts on behalf of the terrorist group, and bragged about how he taught nearly 100 aspiring snipers how to kill. He further aligned himself to the Islamic State by covering his federal prison cell wall with an improvised ISIS flag. HSI New York is proud to stand with our partners to ensure his atrocities end here.”
“Today’s sentence is a just and fair punishment for a naturalized U.S. citizen who forsook the country that took him in,” stated NYPD Commissioner Caban. “Instead of embracing all that America had to offer him and his family in New York City, he instead pledged allegiance to a foreign terrorist organization. This outcome serves as a warning to those who intend to actively promote or carry out the violent objectives of such groups: The NYPD and our law enforcement partners around the globe will never stop working to identify and bring to justice anyone who so clearly considers our nation their sworn enemy.”
Between December 2013 and March 2019, Asainov provided and conspired to provide material support and resources in the form of personnel, including himself, training, and expert advice and assistance, to a foreign terrorist organization, namely ISIS, knowing that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization that had engaged in terrorist activity and terrorism. Asainov also received military-type training from ISIS, in violation of federal law.
On December 24, 2013, Asainov abandoned his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, and boarded a flight at JFK International Airport, bound for Istanbul, Turkey. Along with a co-conspirator, Mirsad Kandic, by early January 2014, Asainov traveled to northern Syria in the area of Aleppo, and joined ISIS as a fighter. Kandic was arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS resulting in death by a federal jury in Brooklyn in May 2022, and sentenced to life in prison in July 2023.
Over the course of approximately five years fighting on behalf of ISIS, Asainov fought in numerous battles against ISIS enemies, including engagements at Kobani, Tabqa, Raqqa, Dayr Az Zawr, and ISIS’s last stand in Syria at Baghouz, in March 2019. Asainov received training in how to use automatic rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. In Tabqa, in mid-2014, he volunteered to train as a sniper. Over time, Asainov became a sniper trainer or “emir” on behalf of ISIS, estimating that he taught nearly 100 students. A former U.S. Navy SEAL scout sniper testified that the defendant’s sniper training course was consistent with what the former SEAL would expect to be taught in a sniper training program.
From Syria, the defendant attempted to recruit another individual to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS, and sought to obtain funds to purchase a scope for his rifle from the same person. The defendant also told his estranged wife that he was fighting on behalf of ISIS, described by him in a recorded January 2015 voicemail as “the most atrocious terrorist organization in the world that ever existed.” Asainov’s estranged wife testified that he sent her a photograph of three dead fighters, one of whom was wearing a patch reading, “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” i.e., ISIS, in Arabic script.
Asainov was captured in Syria after ISIS’s last stand at Baghouz, near the Syria-Iraq border. Just before his capture, Asainov discarded his rifle and destroyed his cell phone.
Asainov admitted to agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he had fought in numerous battles on behalf of ISIS as a warrior and sniper, serving in several different katibas or ISIS fighting brigades. In recorded phone calls to his mother from facilities operated by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), the defendant told her that he was carrying out Allah’s orders when he waged jihad and killed for ISIS, that he intended to return to waging jihad if released, and that he would fight until he “meet[s] Allah,” i.e., until his death. In September 2020, staff at a BOP facility confiscated a makeshift ISIS flag affixed to Asainov’s cell wall. The defendant had filled in an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper with black ink and Arabic writing in the design of the ISIS flag. During his trial, the defendant reiterated his allegiance to ISIS to court personnel, stating that ISIS would rise again.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, J. Matthew Haggans, Nicholas J. Moscow, and Nina C. Gupta are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jenny Levy of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and Paralegal Specialists Wayne Colon and Mary Clare McMahon.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s Legal Attachés abroad, and foreign authorities in multiple countries on multiple continents provided critical assistance in this case. The Bosnian and Herzegovinian authorities and the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Sarajevo provided extraordinary assistance in the investigation and prosecution. The Ministry of Justice for the Republic of Finland, the Stuttgart Police Department and Federal Office of Justice in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development in the Republic of South Africa, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices for those countries provided valuable assistance in the investigation.
RUSLAN MARATOVICH ASAINOV (also known as “Suleiman Al-Amriki” and “Suleiman Al-Kazakhi”)
Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-402 (NGG)
Brooklyn, New York; Kosovo
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-449 (NGG)
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office