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Press Release

Woodbridge Man Sentenced for Attempting to Travel to Syria to Join ISIL

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 29, of Woodbridge, was sentenced today to 102 months in prison for attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Farrokh was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release.

“Farrokh’s state of mind and conduct in this case were egregious and go to the heart of the safety of our community and the nation,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This office will continue to pursue those that travel to fight against the United States and our allies, as well as those individuals that recruit others on behalf of ISIL in the homeland.”

“With this sentence, Joseph Hassan Farrokh will be held accountable for attempting to travel overseas to join ISIL and to provide material support to the designated terrorist organization,” said John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “The National Security Division’s highest priority is countering terrorist threats, and we will continue to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters abroad and bring to justice those who attempt to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

“Joseph Farrokh admitted to attempting to travel to Syria to join and fight with ISIL in support of its oppressive, violent, and criminal agenda,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Thanks to the relentless work of agents, analysts, and prosecutors, together with the essential contributions of our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, we were able to disrupt those plans and bring him to justice.  The FBI's highest priority remains preventing terrorist attacks and combating terrorism here in the U.S. and around world.”

According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, 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 October 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 could not be detected by law enforcement, such as using apps they believed were safe from law enforcement detection.  In the summer of 2015, Farrokh and Elhassan talked more seriously about going to join the Islamic State. When Farrokh and Elhassan discussed ways to reach the Islamic State, they concluded that they needed someone to help them do so. Elhassan was very active online, and contacted like-minded people all over the world.  The men pursued two separate plans to travel to Syria to join ISIL, but neither plan worked out.

According to the statement of facts, 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 fly out of Richmond International Airport, as they believed there would be less security. Farrokh and Elhassan agreed that Farrokh should tell his family that he intended to travel to Saudi Arabia to study.

According to the statement of facts, on January 15, 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.

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 sentencing by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.  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 prosecuted the case. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated 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.

Updated July 15, 2016

National Security