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Press Release

Woodbridge Men Charged with Terrorism Offenses Related to 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, 28, and Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, 25, both of Woodbridge, were charged today for criminal activity relating to Farrokh’s attempt to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Farrokh was arrested yesterday afternoon at the Richmond International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Chicago, where he intended to board a flight to Amman, Jordan, with an ultimate destination of Syria.  Elhassan was arrested yesterday evening in Woodbridge after returning from driving Farrokh to Richmond and being interviewed by FBI agents.    

Farrokh, who is a U.S. citizen originally from Pennsylvania, has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Elhassan, who is a legal permanent U.S. resident originally from Sudan, has been charged with aiding and abetting Farrokh’s attempt to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

According to the criminal complaints, since at least Nov. 20, 2015, Farrokh has been engaged in efforts to leave the United States and join ISIL in Syria. Farrokh purchased an airline ticket on Dec. 21, 2015, for flights departing yesterday from Richmond with an ultimate arrival destination of Jordan, and would then travel to Syria.

According to the criminal complaints, Elhassan introduced Farrokh to a person who Elhassan believed maintained connections to individuals engaged in jihad overseas. Elhassan also knew of Farrokh’s plans to travel to Syria to join ISIL, and Elhassan acknowledged to others that Farrokh was falsely telling his family that he intended to travel to Saudi Arabia to study.

According to the criminal complaints, Elhassan picked up Farrokh yesterday morning and drove him to Richmond to a location approximately one mile from the airport. Farrokh then took a cab to the airport, checked in for his flight, cleared security and was arrested as he was approaching his departure gate. After driving Farrokh to Richmond, Elhassan returned to Woodbridge yesterday afternoon and voluntarily consented to an interview by FBI agents. Elhassan acknowledged to the interviewing agents several times that he knew it was illegal to knowingly lie to federal agents, then proceeded to make a number of false statements in response to the agents’ questions. For example, when asked when he had last seen Farrokh, Elhassan told the agents it had been earlier in the day in Woodbridge. Elhassan also stated that Farrokh was going to the Dulles International Airport to fly to California to attend a funeral and would be gone for two weeks.      

Farrokh and Elhassan each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted. 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.

The initial appearance for both men is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2016, in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

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.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and Dennis Fitzpatrick, along with Trial Attorney D. Andrew Sigler of the Justice Department’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

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-24 (Farrokh) and 1:16-cr-25 (Elhassan).

The criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Updated January 16, 2016