Florida Man Sentenced To 48 Months In Federal Prison For Using Counterfeit U.S. Passport Cards In Check-Cashing Scheme
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that three residents of Lansing, Michigan have been convicted of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”). Today, the third and final defendant in the case, Mohamed Haji, pleaded guilty to the federal crime of conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. In January 2020, his co-defendants Muse Muse and Mohamud Muse pleaded guilty to the same offense.
On January 21, 2019, special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested defendant Muse Muse at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after he checked in for a flight to the first of a series of destinations on his way to Mogadishu, Somalia, with the goal of joining ISIS. Shortly thereafter, his brother Mohamud Muse and cousin Mohamed Haji were arrested as co-conspirators. According to court documents, between December 2018 and January 2019, Muse Muse coordinated with an individual he believed to be a Somali ISIS fighter to wire funds to be used to purchase airline tickets for travel to Mogadishu, Somalia, where he believed he would meet an ISIS representative. All three defendants picked up money to provide Muse Muse the funds to travel to join ISIS, all three defendants pledged allegiance to ISIS in recorded videos, and all three submitted their videos to individuals they believed were associated with ISIS. Additionally, throughout the conspiracy, all three defendants participated in numerous discussions during which they discussed traveling overseas to join ISIS and even adopted fighter aliases by which they would be known when fighting for ISIS.
Muse, Mohamud Muse, and Haji were indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges, including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. This federal offense required the government to prove that Haji: (1) agreed with one or more individuals to provide material support or resources (which includes personnel) to ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization; (2) knew that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization or had engaged or engages in terrorist activity or terrorism; and (3) is a U.S. national or some part of the offense occurred in the United States. At his change of plea hearing before Chief United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker, Haji admitted each of those elements of the crime.
All three defendants will be sentenced by Chief Judge Jonker at a later date. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. The Court will determine the ultimate sentence to be imposed after evaluating the applicable federal Sentencing Guidelines and considering the statutory sentencing factors, including the nature and circumstances of the offense; the history and characteristics of each defendant; the seriousness of the offense; and the need to promote respect for the law, to provide just punishment, and protect the public from future crimes of each defendant.
United States Attorney Andrew Birge stated, “There is no priority higher for my Office than detecting, preventing and prosecuting terrorism. With this successful investigation and prosecution, the United States Attorney’s office and its law enforcement partners prevented these young men from assisting a dangerous international terrorist organization and held them accountable for conspiring to do so. Nearly 80 countries around the globe have committed to eliminating the threat ISIS poses. Every person and every resource bound for a terrorist organization that we intercept impacts the ability of that organization to carry out attacks here and overseas. Every conviction sends a powerful message of deterrence.”
“As this case demonstrates, the threat from foreign terrorist organizations has not ended. The FBI works every day to identify and disrupt those acting in support of these groups both in the United States and throughout the world. The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue these investigations and hold accountable those who provide material support to foreign terrorist groups,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The successful disruption of Muse Muse’s plan to travel overseas, and the conviction of those who aided him in that plan, is the result of the hard work and dedication of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which remains committed to protecting the public from terror attacks.”
The FBI’s investigation was assisted by the Michigan State Police, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State University Police Department, Lansing Police Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, Gerald R. Ford Airport Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration, Federal Air Marshals, and Customs and Border Protection.
Assistant United States Attorneys Clay West and Christopher O’Connor are prosecuting the case with assistance from the National Security Division Counterterrorism Section.