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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

Friday, September 20, 2013

Staten Island Man Sentenced To 13 Years In Prison For Making False Statements In A Matter Involving International Terrorism

Defendant Attempted To Travel To Pakistan To Join A Violent Jihadist Group, And Join The U.S. Army To Defect And Join Enemy Forces Overseas

Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a United States citizen and resident of Staten Island, New York, was sentenced to 13 years in prison today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.  In March 2013, Shehadah was convicted at trial of making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism.  In addition to the prison term, Shehadeh was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release. 

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD). 

According to court filings and the evidence introduced at trial, in early 2008, Shehadeh devised a plan to travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan in order to join al Qaeda or the Taliban.  In furtherance of his plan, on June 13, 2008, Shehadeh flew on a one-way airline ticket from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Islamabad, Pakistan.  After he was denied entry by Pakistani officials, Shehadeh told investigators from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”) that he had traveled to Pakistan in order to visit a university.  However, as established by the evidence at trial, the true purpose of Shehadeh’s trip was to wage violent jihad against United States military forces.

Several weeks after he was denied entry to Pakistan, Shehadeh attempted to enlist in the United States Army at the Times Square recruiting station in Manhattan.  Shehadeh’s application was denied when it was discovered that he had concealed his prior trip to Pakistan.  Though Shehadeh claimed that he had tried to enlist for career opportunities and benefits, as established at trial, his true motive was to commit treason by defecting and fighting alongside insurgent forces overseas. 

Over the next several months, in subsequent interviews with members of the JTTF, Shehadah continued to conceal the true purpose of his travel.  However, in 2010, Shehadah confessed to FBI agents that he had sought to join a jihadist fighting group.  Shehadah was arrested in Honolulu, Hawaii, in October 2010.

“Shehadah was ardently committed to becoming a terrorist and waging violent jihad.  He repeatedly attempted to travel overseas to turn against his native country, going so far as to try to join the U.S. military in a treasonous ruse,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.  “Due to the tireless work of the FBI and the NYPD, the defendant’s jihadist efforts were detected and foiled.  Now, he will spend 13 years in a federal prison.”  United States Attorney Lynch thanked the FBI’s New York and Honolulu Field Offices, as well as the New York City Police Department, for their substantial contributions to the multi-year investigation that led to the defendant’s arrest and conviction. 

The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander Solomon, David Sarratt and James Loonam, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Mara Kohn of the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice.

The Defendant

Abdel Hameed Shehadeh
Age: 23
Staten Island, New York

Updated July 2, 2015