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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 19, 2018

Lackawanna Man Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Provide Support To ISIS

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051
 
BUFFALO, N.Y.–U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Arafat M. Nagi, 47, of Lackawanna, NY, pleaded guilty, before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, to attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.  Specifically, Nagi admitted, in his plea, that the attempted to provide material support to a terrorist organization by personally traveling to Turkey in an effort to enter Syria and fight on behalf of ISIS. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy C. Lynch and Joel L. Violanti, who are handling the case, stated that on August 28, 2014, a community member advised the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the defendant spoke about violent jihad to various people in the Lackawanna community and it was common for Nagi to get into verbal complaints over his jihadi beliefs.

Further investigation determined that the defendant pledged allegiance to ISIS and the leader of the terrorist group, Abu Bakr al Bagdadi. Investigators learned that the defendant traveled to Turkey on two occasions, in October 2012 and July 2014, with the intention of meeting with members of ISIS. Prior to traveling to Turkey, the defendant purchased a large number of military combat items, including a tactical vest, army combat shirt, body armor, Shahada Flag, combat boots, backpack, burn kit, a hunting knife, machete and night vision goggles. Once in Turkey, Nagi purchased a SIM card and activated a Turkish cell phone number. Facebook messages showed that the defendant contacted other individuals, who were prepared to help the defendant enter Syria to join ISIS, and exchanged Turkish cell phone numbers. In addition, evidence seized from the defendant’s electronic devices showed that the defendant, while in Turkey, was researching how to travel from Istanbul to cities close to the Syrian border.

During follow up interviews in December, 2014 and March 2015, the community member who alerted the FBI regarding Nagi’s actions stated that the defendant still possessed radical political and religious views. According to the individual, Nagi was angry about the killing of rebels in Yemen which he blamed on the United States; pledged an oath to ISIS leaders; expressed agreement with ISIS tactics, including the killing of innocent men, women, and children.  The individual further reported that defendant planned to travel to Yemen and Turkey again soon.

“Arafat Nagi’s plea should serve as a sobering reminder that terrorism’s reach is not confined to obscure individuals operating in far-away lands,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Nagi is not the first individual in our community who has sought to provide support to and fight on behalf of ISIS or some other terrorist organization. Likewise, he is not the first terrorist recruit to be turned over to law enforcement by others in the community. Today’s plea illustrates just how critical it is for all of us as members of this community to remain vigilant in our duty both to protect the lives of Americans at home and abroad and to preserve those values—such as liberty, tolerance, and justice—which define us as Americans around the world.”

“As important as catching those who would commit violence against our country, it is vital to cut off the money and counter their recruiting efforts which is the lifeblood of these organizations,” said Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Philip E. Frigm, Jr.   
   
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen. Assistance in the matter was also provided by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Eric Schneiderman.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 7, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.

Updated January 23, 2018