Massachusetts Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Planning ISIS Inspired Attack
Defendant was planning attack on a university; stabbed nurse 10 times while in custody
BOSTON – An Adams, Mass. man was sentenced today in federal court in Springfield in connection with a plot to engage in terrorist activity inspired by and in the name of ISIS.
Alexander Ciccolo, a/k/a Ali Al Amriki, 26, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release. In May 2018, Ciccolo pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, one count of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, one count of being a convicted person in possession of firearms, and one count of assaulting a nurse during a jail intake process by use of a deadly weapon causing bodily injury.
“Alexander Ciccolo planned to kill innocent civilians in the United States on ISIS’s behalf,” said United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling. “Even though he was born and spent most of his life in Massachusetts, Ciccolo decided to turn against his country and plotted to attack his fellow Americans. Thanks to the tireless investigation and swift response of our law enforcement partners, Ciccolo was unable to carry out his violent plan. The sentence handed down today reflects our commitment to bringing all those whose allegiance lies with terrorists to justice.”
“The National Security Division will not tolerate threats to our country and its people,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers. “Not only did Ciccolo admit to supporting ISIS — a well-known terrorist group — but he also collected weapons and explosives in order to further their goal of murdering innocent Americans. This sentence holds him accountable for breaking our laws and putting American lives at risk.”
“Make no mistake, Alexander Ciccolo was a committed soldier of ISIS who wanted to kill innocent people at a United States university with assault rifles and pressure cooker bombs, not an unwitting dupe who didn’t understand the gravity of what he was doing,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “He repeatedly expressed his desire to engage in acts of violent jihad against our country, and with this sentencing, he will now pay the price for conspiring with a foreign terrorist organization. I commend the hard work and collaboration of all involved, specifically the Western Massachusetts Joint Terrorism Task Force who successfully thwarted Ciccolo’s terroristic plot before any lives were lost. We all play a role in safeguarding our country, and this case not only highlights the importance of continued vigilance, but the significance that family, friends, or by-standers can play in reporting threats or suspicious activities.”
Alexander Ciccolo was a soldier of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Ciccolo heeded the call of ISIS to commit terrorist attacks in the United States. He intended to inflict maximum damage upon the United States and create mass casualties on behalf of ISIS. At the time of his arrest in July 2015, Ciccolo was planning to attack a university using firearms and improvised explosives, and attempted to recruit others to assist him in his attack plan. Even after being arrested, Ciccolo attacked a nurse who was merely trying to provide him medical care.
Until his arrest in July 2015, Ciccolo had spoken with a person who was cooperating with law enforcement in recorded conversations about his plans to commit acts of terrorism inspired by ISIS. The plans included setting off improvised explosive devices, such as pressure cookers filled with black powder, nails, ball bearings and glass, in places where large numbers of people congregate, like college cafeterias. Prior to his arrest, agents had observed Ciccolo purchase a pressure cooker similar to that used in the Boston Marathon bombings.
On July 4, 2015, Ciccolo was arrested after he received four firearms which he had ordered from a cooperating witness who had been communicating with Ciccolo about his plans to engage in a terrorist act. Ciccolo was arrested in possession of a Colt AR-15 .223 caliber rifle, a SigArms Model SG550-1 556 rifle, a Glock 17-9 mm pistol, and a Glock 20-10 mm pistol. Ciccolo had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in jail and therefore was prohibited from possessing firearms.
In addition, several partially constructed “Molotov cocktails” were found in Ciccolo’s apartment after he was arrested. These incendiary devices contained what appeared to be shredded Styrofoam soaking in motor oil. Ciccolo had previously stated that this mixture would cause the fire from the exploded devices to stick to people’s skin and make it harder to put the fire out.
Shortly after his arrest, while he at the Franklin County Correctional Center, Ciccolo stabbed a nurse with a pen more than ten times, leaving a bloody gash on the top of the nurse’s head.
U.S. Attorney Lelling, Assistant Attorney General Demers, and FBI SAC Shaw made the announcement today. The investigation was conducted by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force including the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Springfield, Ludlow, Holyoke, West Springfield, Easthampton, and Pittsfield Police Departments; the Massachusetts State Police; and Homeland Security Investigations, with critical assistance from the Adams Police Department and the Massachusetts State Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deepika Bains Shukla and Kevin O’Regan of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorney Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice prosecuted the case.