Columbia Man Indicted for Attempting to Aid Terrorists
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Columbia, Mo., man was indicted by a federal grand jury today for his role in making preparations to launch a terrorist attack with persons he believed were members of ISIS, but who were actually undercover law enforcement agents.
Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., 25, of Columbia, was charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was signed on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, and contains an additional charge of attempting to provide material support or resources to terrorists.
Hester, who was the sole subject of this undercover investigation, remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Hester is a U.S. citizen who was born in Missouri. He was enlisted in the U.S. Army for less than a year, receiving a general discharge from service in mid-2013.
Count One of the federal indictment alleges that, from October 2016 to Feb. 17, 2017, Hester attempted to provide material support or resources to be used in preparation for, and in carrying out, the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Count Two of the federal indictment alleges that, from October 2016 to Feb. 17, 2017, Hester attempted to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, knowing that ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) was a designated foreign terrorist organization that engages in terrorist activity.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, FBI agents undertook a review of Hester’s publicly available posts on multiple social media accounts in September 2016. FBI employees using undercover identities communicated with Hester via social media, texting and personal meetings on several occasions. When Hester arrived for a meeting with an undercover FBI employee on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, he was arrested.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian P. Casey and David Raskin and Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. It was investigated by the FBI.
Updated February 23, 2017