War on Terrorism

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Statement of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on the Office of Inspector General’s Report

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) acknowledges the work done by the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), as described in its report released today, entitled “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Administration of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.”

Today’s VCF has undergone many positive changes since OIG concluded its substantive review, including new leadership and updated regulations that implement changes as a result of the Dec. 18, 2015, reauthorization of the program by Congress and the President for an additional five years. That reauthorization, which extended the application period until Dec. 18, 2020, and appropriated $4.6 billion in additional funding, was a demonstration of Congress’s faith in the program and a recognition both of its success and of the enormity of the work that remains to be done. The OIG’s report similarly recognizes the substantial work done by the VCF, finding that each of its recommendations has already been met by the VCF and deeming each one closed and requiring no further follow-up.

“While no amount of money can alleviate the losses suffered as a result of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the VCF plays a critical role in providing some measure of relief to those who continue to suffer,” said VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya. “The VCF today is reauthorized and reinvigorated in its efforts to serve the 9/11 community, and has taken substantial steps to realign the program to promptly, accurately, consistently, and fairly decide the claims already pending and the claims still anticipated to be filed. The VCF is grateful for OIG’s collaborative approach to the audit, and for the time and effort that OIG expended in reviewing the Fund’s operations through February of 2016, when it completed its substantive review.”

Since 2011, the VCF has awarded over $2.8 billion in compensation to responders to the attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and at the Shanksville site, as well as to those who lived, worked, or traveled through areas of lower Manhattan that were exposed to debris and toxins generated by the attacks and their aftermath. The VCF continues to receive and review claims from those who have suffered, and has over $4 billion in funds remaining.

To date, the VCF has made more than 21,000 eligibility decisions, finding more than 16,900 claimants eligible for compensation. The VCF had also made award determinations on more than 13,000 of those claims, including over 11,000 responders. More than 4,000 of these claimants suffer from one or more cancers related to their 9/11 exposure, while the remainder suffer from other, often times disabling, physical injuries.

The VCF was created to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. The original VCF operated from 2001-2004. On Jan. 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act). Title II of the Zadroga Act reactivated the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The reactivated VCF opened in October 2011 and was authorized to operate for a period of five years, ending in October 2016. On Dec. 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which included the reauthorization of the VCF.

For additional information about how to file a claim, please visit the “How to File a Claim” page on the VCF’s website at www.vcf.gov; information on VCF policies and procedures can be obtained at https://www.vcf.gov/pdf/VCFPolicy.pdf. If you have any questions about the claim form, the website, or the VCF process, please contact the VCF’s toll-free Helpline at 1-855-885-1555.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Charges

Lionel Williams, 27, of Suffolk, Va., pleaded guilty today to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana J. Boente; Special Agent in Charge Martin Culbreth of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Chief Thomas E. Bennett of Suffolk Police, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen accepted the plea.

According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Williams attempted to send money to a person he believed was an ISIS financier on two occasions, believing the money would be used to kill. In court documents, Williams admitted his interest in ISIS began in 2014. On Dec. 3, 2015, the day after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, he bought an AK-47 assault rifle. In March 2016, he publicly declared his support for ISIS on social media, described his hope that ISIS would take over the U.S., and stated he would decapitate any law enforcement agents he caught surveilling him. After donating money to an individual he believed to be an ISIS financier - but was actually a persona adopted by an FBI employee - Williams was told his donation had helped purchase a rocket-propelled grenade. He responded with an Arabic phrase meaning, “Praise be to Allah, and Allah is the Greatest.” Later in 2016, Williams began discussing plans for a martyrdom operation with a woman living outside the U.S. He asked an FBI confidential source to send him specific types of AK-47 ammunition and told an FBI employee that his plan was for a “local” operation. Williams was arrested and charged shortly thereafter. After his arrest, he told agents he supported ISIS and believed he was part of a “holy war.”

As part of the plea agreement, Williams agreed that he will receive the statutory maximum of 20 years in prison when sentenced on December 20.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph E. DePadilla and Andrew C. Bosse, and Trial Attorneys Alicia H. Cook and Joshua D. Champagne of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty for Conspiring to Provide and for Providing Material Support to ISIS

Mohamed Elshinawy, 32, of Edgewood, Md., pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization; providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS terrorism financing; and making false statements in connection with a terrorism matter.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney of the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning and Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Office.

According to the plea agreement, Elshinawy conspired with others to knowingly provide material support and resources to ISIS, knowing that ISIS was a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. From February 2015 through about Dec. 11, 2015, in Maryland and elsewhere, Elshinawy conspired with others to provide material support and resources, including personnel, services (including means and methods of communication), and financial services, to ISIS.  Elshinawy and his co-conspirators utilized various methods of secret communication in order to conceal their criminal association and activities from law enforcement.

As a part of the conspiracy, Elshinawy expressed his support for an Islamic caliphate and his belief in the legitimacy of ISIS. In addition, he expressed his hope that ISIS would be victorious and its enemies defeated, and discussed his readiness to travel to live in the Islamic State. In various other conversations, Elshinawy pledged his allegiance to ISIS, described himself as its soldier, committed to making violent jihad, and asked that others convey his message of loyalty to ISIS leadership.

Elshinawy also received payments from a foreign company totaling $8,700 to be used to fund a terrorist attack in the U.S.

In an interview with FBI agents on July 17, 2015, in an effort to conceal and minimize his criminal involvement with ISIS, Elshinawy provided false information regarding the total amount of money he had received from ISIS operatives and claimed his intent was to defraud ISIS of funds. Throughout his interviews, Elshinawy mischaracterized the true nature and extent of his association with ISIS operatives and the support he had provided to ISIS.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to provide and for providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization is 20 years in prison; the maximum sentence for collection of terrorism financing is 20 years in prison; and the maximum sentence for making false statements in a terrorism matter is eight years in prison.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  Elshinawy’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Elshinawy has been detained since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2015, on related charges.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI for its work in the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine Manuelian and Kenneth Clark and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.