War on Terrorism

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ohio Man Indicted for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS and Attempting to Commit a Violent Hate Crime Attack Against a Toledo Synagogue


A federal grand jury sitting in the Northern District of Ohio returned a three-count indictment charging an Ohio man with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, attempting to commit a hate crime, and possessing firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence stemming from his plan to attack in a synagogue in the Toledo area.

Damon M. Joseph, 21, also known as Abdullah Ali Yusuf, of Holland, Ohio, was arrested in December after he took possession of two semi-automatic rifles.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division, U.S Attorney Justin E. Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio and Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Hughes of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

According to documents filed in court, Joseph drew the attention of law enforcement in 2018 by posting photographs of weapons and various messages in support of ISIS on his social media accounts, as well as a photograph originally distributed by the media wing of ISIS.  This activity led to multiple interactions between Joseph and undercover FBI agents.

During his communication with undercover agents, Joseph stated his support for ISIS and produced propaganda in support of ISIS recruitment.  In September, Joseph made videos that he sent to the undercover agent, hoping they would be used to recruit people to ISIS.  He also complained that the mosque he attended was critical of ISIS.

Joseph stated his support for violent attacks and operations.  For example, on Oct. 21, 2018, Joseph expressed support for “martyrdom operations” and stated: “what must be done, must be done” and “there are always casualties of war.”

On Oct. 30, Joseph and the undercover communicated regarding the mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. Joseph stated: “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually.”  He added: “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah. They wouldn[’]t even expect [an attack] in my area...”

Over the next few weeks, Joseph continued stating he wanted to participate in an attack on behalf of ISIS.  On Dec. 2 he forwarded a document that laid out his plans for an attack, using the name “Abdullah Ali Yusuf” for himself.  In the document, he described plans to attack where the greatest number of people are gathered, inflict the most casualties during the attack and make sure no one escaped.

Joseph then stated that he did not see this necessarily as “a martyrdom operation” as his plan accounted for an escape and potential combat with law enforcement.

On Dec. 4, Joseph stated he was deciding between two synagogues in the area to attack.  He stated the choice would depend on “Which one will have [the] most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.”

The next day, Joseph met with an undercover FBI agent and discussed conducting a mass shooting at a synagogue. Joseph identified two synagogues he viewed as targets in the greater Toledo area, and discussed the types of weapons he believed would be able to inflict mass casualties.

Joseph made written notes about the firearms he wanted and provided them to the undercover agent, stating he wanted AR 15s, AK 47s, Glocks and ammunition.

On Dec. 6, Joseph met with an undercover agent in the Toledo area and stated it would be ideal to attack two synagogues, but that it was probably more realistic to only attack one.  Joseph also stated specifically that he wanted to kill a rabbi.

Also on Dec. 6, Joseph wrote the name and address of the synagogue where the attack was to occur.  Joseph stated he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present.  Joseph pulled up photographs of the inside of the synagogue and said he wanted the attack to begin in the sanctuary.  Joseph told the undercover agent that he would hide two semi-automatic rifles at his house once the undercover purchased them.

Later that day, the undercover agent told Joseph that he purchased rifles for the attack.  The two met on Dec. 7 at a predetermined location and Joseph took a black duffel bag containing two semi-automatic rifles, which had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers so that they posed no danger to the public.  Joseph was then arrested.

An indictment is only a charge, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of members of the FBI, Homeland Security and Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Toledo Police Department, is leading the ongoing investigation. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Baeppler of the Northern District of Ohio, Trial Attorneys Josh Champagne and Kyle Phillips of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Three Southwest Kansas Men Sentenced to Prison for Plotting to Bomb Somali Immigrants in Garden City


WASHINGTON – Three men from southwest Kansas were sentenced to 25, 26 and 30 years imprisonment on charges of conspiring to detonate a bomb at an apartment complex in Garden City where Muslim immigrants lived, announced Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker; United States Attorney for the District of Kansas Stephen McAllister; FBI Director Chris Wray; Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband; Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John C. Demers; and FBI Kansas City Division Special Agent in Charge Darrin E. Jones.

“The Department of Justice works every day to thwart terrorist threats to the United States," said Acting Attorney General Whitaker. "The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That's not just illegal—it's morally repugnant.  Today's sentence is a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism, and I want to thank everyone who helped bring the defendants to justice—the dedicated professionals with the FBI, the United States Attorney's Office in Kansas, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division, and our state and local law enforcement partners.  Law enforcement saved lives in this case."

“These defendants planned to ruthlessly bomb an apartment complex and kill innocent people, simply because of who they are and how they worship," said FBI Director Wray. “Today, together with our law enforcement partners, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting all people in our communities from those who seek to terrorize and do harm."

“Some people have described this prosecution as a civil rights case, a domestic terrorism case or even a violent crime case,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister of the District of Kansas. “However you look at it, it is a violation of everything we stand for in America, equal rights, public safety and respect for law.”

“Today's sentencing speaks to the FBI's commitment to protect the communities we serve and our continued obligation to disrupt plots where the intent is to commit violence and harm others,” said Darrin Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Kansas City Division. “This sentencing highlights the gravity of these crimes, and that actions motivated by hatred will not be tolerated. The FBI, with our law enforcement partners will continue to work aggressively to ensure those responsible are brought to justice."

On April 18, 2018 after a five-week trial, a federal jury convicted Patrick Eugene Stein, 49, of Wright, Kansas, Curtis Allen, 51, of Liberal, Kansas, and Gavin Wright, 53, of Beaver County, Oklahoma, on one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. Both conspiracies stemmed from the defendants’ plot to blow up the apartment complex in an effort to kill the Somali Muslim immigrants who lived there. The jury also convicted defendant Wright of lying to the FBI in matter involving domestic terrorism.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that the defendants plotted, over the course of several months, to attack an apartment complex that contained a mosque in Garden City, Kansas, where Muslim immigrants from Somalia lived and worshipped. Evidence during trial established that the defendants held numerous meetings to plan the attack and took significant steps – including making and testing explosives – toward implementing their plan.  During an eight-month-long FBI investigation, a confidential source, whom the government credited for thwarting the attack and saving the lives of innocent victims, recorded numerous conversations during which the defendants discussed and refined their plan. As the plan solidified, the defendants discussed obtaining four vehicles, filling them with explosives, and parking them at the four corners of the apartment complex to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants.

During the course of the investigation, defendant Stein also met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a black market arms dealer, in an effort to obtain a bomb. During one of the meetings, Stein drove with the agent to see the apartment building that the defendants were planning to destroy.

Curtis Allen was sentenced to 25 years. Gavin Wright was sentenced to 26 years. Patrick Stein was sentenced to 30 years.

Whitaker, McAllister, Wray, Dreiband, Demers, and Jones commended the following law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for their exceptional and exemplary efforts investigating and prosecuting this important case: the FBI, the Liberal Police Department, the Seward County Sheriff’s Office, the Ford County Sheriff’s Office, the Garden City Police Department, the Dodge City Police Department, the Finney County Sheriff’s Office, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and National Security Division.

The case was tried by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi and Trial Attorneys Risa Berkower and Mary J. Hahn of the Civil Rights Division and supported by Trial Attorney David Cora of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Appellate Attorney Danielle Tarin of the Office of Law and Policy.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Lansing Residents Arrested For Conspiracy To Provide Material Support To ISIS


          Grand Rapids, MI - Three residents of Lansing, Michigan, were arrested without incident Monday afternoon for conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan charged all three in a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

          Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested MUSE ABDIKADIR MUSE (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. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement arrested alleged coconspirators MOHAMUD ABDIKADIR MUSE (MOHAMUD MUSE), and MOHAMED SALAT HAJI (HAJI). MUSE MUSE and MOHAMUD MUSE are brothers and HAJI is a cousin. All three were born in Kenya. HAJI is a naturalized U.S. citizen and the brothers are derivative U.S. citizens, having received U.S. citizenship as minors through the naturalization of their parents.

          According to thecomplaint affidavit, MUSE MUSE purchased airline tickets earlier this month to travel from Grand Rapids to Mogadishu, departing on Monday, January 21, 2019. Among other support, the complaint alleged HAJI and MOHAMUD MUSE aided in the purchase of the ticket and drove MUSE MUSE to the Grand Rapids airport, each knowing the true purpose of the travel was for MUSE MUSE to join and fight for ISIS.

          Thecomplaint asserts that all three defendants pledged allegiance to ISIS through videos they recorded themselves. MUSE MUSE and HAJI allegedly discussed with each other their desire to join ISIS, kill non-believers and even to potentially use a car for a martyrdom operation to run down non-believers here in the United States if they could not travel overseas to fight for ISIS. Following the arrests, federal agents executed a search warrant at a residence in Lansing, Michigan, shared by MOHAMUD MUSE and MUSE MUSE.

          Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Andrew B. Birge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, and Tim Slater, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Field Division, announced the arrests.

          The JTTF is comprised of agents and officers from area federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Michigan State Police, Michigan State University Police Department, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Lansing and Grand Rapids Police Departments, U.S. Marshals Service, Lansing and Grand Rapids Airport Police and the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Air Marshals and Customs and Border Protection.

            The defendants were scheduled to make their initial appearance in court today to hear the charges against them. They will remain in custody pending formal arraignment and a hearing on the government’s request that their detention continue until trial. The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.