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Justice News

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Woodbridge Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIL

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, of Woodbridge, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, beginning in or about August 2015, and continuing through January 15, 2016, Farrokh conspired with Mahmoud Amin Elhassan, 25, of Woodbridge, to travel from the United States to Syria in order to fight with ISIL. As part of their plan, Farrokh would travel first, followed by Elhassan at a later date. Farrokh and Elhassan spoke in detail about their potential travel, including discussing the different routes each would take to travel to Syria. Farrokh also provided $600 to Elhassan to aid in Elhassan’s future travel to Syria.  Both men spoke openly with each other about supporting ISIL and supporting violent jihad, with Farrokh saying on Oct. 2, 2015, that he had no patience and wanted to go right away and “chop their heads.” 

According to the statement of facts, in an effort to conceal their plans to support ISIL, Farrokh and Elhassan communicated in a manner in which they thought they could not be detected by law enforcement, such as using apps they believed were safe from law enforcement detection.  In the summer 2015, Farrokh and Elhassan talked more seriously about going to join ISIL. When Farrokh and Elhassan discussed ways to reach ISIL, they concluded that they needed someone to help them do so.

According to the statement of facts, from November 2015 through Jan. 15, 2016, Farrokh and Elhassan conspired with other persons they believed would help facilitate their travel to Syria. Over the course of many meetings, the men discussed in detail their travel plans and efforts to avoid law enforcement detection, including having Farrokh shave his beard and to fly out of Richmond International Airport to avoid what Farrokh believed to be stricter law enforcement scrutiny at Reagan National Airport.  Farrokh and Elhassan agreed that Farrokh should tell his family that he intended to travel to Saudi Arabia to study.

On Jan. 15, 2016, Elhassan picked up Farrokh at his home in Woodbridge and drove him to Richmond to a location approximately one mile from the airport. Farrokh then took another cab to the airport, checked in for his flight, cleared security and was arrested as he was approaching his departure gate.

Farrokh was charged by criminal complaint on Jan. 16, 2016, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on July 15, 2016. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and Dennis M. Fitzpatrick, along with Trial Attorney D. Andrew Sigler of the Justice Department’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating the case.  

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:16-cr-20.

National Security
Updated March 21, 2016