Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Algerian Man is Sentenced to 15 Years’ Imprisonment for Conspiring with Pennsylvania Woman and Others to Provide Material Support to Terrorists

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and United States Attorney William M. McSwain for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced that an Algerian man was sentenced today to 15 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists.  United States District Judge Petrese B. Tucker presided over the proceeding.

Ali Charaf Damache, 53, also known as Theblackflag, was indicted in 2011 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism.  He was extradited from Spain in 2017 and pleaded guilty in July 2018. Upon completing his prison sentence, he will be removed from the United States and return to Ireland, where he is a citizen, or alternatively, Algeria.

Damache, his co-defendant Mohammad Hassan Khalid, and others conspired to support, recruit, and coordinate a terrorist cell, consisting of men and women from Europe and the United States, to wage violent jihad in and around Europe.  Jamie Paulin Ramirez, a resident of Colorado, and Colleen R. LaRose, aka Fatima LaRose, aka JihadJane, a resident of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are among Damache’s co-conspirators.

Though there were several involved in the conspiracy, Damache was the force behind the terrorist cell he formed.  He enticed LaRose and Ramirez to travel to Ireland live with him and train in the ways of violent jihad; convinced Khalid, LaRose and others to recruit men online to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe; and began to coordinate explosives training for his co-conspirators.  He also trained Ramirez’s son in the ways of violent jihad, on one occasion taking him to a public park for physical training that scared him.

“At a time when radical terrorist groups use the Internet to recruit new members and coordinate attacks against innocent people, the National Security Division remains committed to investigating all possible threats to our country aggressively — including those that take place online,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Through close cooperation with our international law enforcement partners and the dedicated work of our agents and prosecutors, we have brought Damache to justice.  The sentence in this case and order of removal have made the United States safer, and I applaud the women and men throughout the law enforcement community who made it happen.”

“Today’s sentencing marks the end of a long and arduous prosecution that has spanned more than nine years, involved four defendants and five unnamed co-conspirators, and required multiple coordinated international arrests and two extradition applications,” said United States Attorney McSwain.  “Damache and his co-conspirators were motivated by hate and prejudice, and their criminal activities presented a very real danger to our country and the world.  This case is a prime example of the remarkable results we can accomplish when law enforcement – both foreign and domestic – work together to stop our enemies who intend to wage war on our way of life.  As this case shows, our resolve to dismantle extremists groups is stronger than ever.”

This case was investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York and the FBI Field Divisions in New York, Denver, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and the IRS.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and authorities in Spain provided substantial assistance.  Authorities in Ireland also provided assistance in this matter.

The case is being prosecuted Trial Attorneys Matthew F. Blue and C. Alexandria Bogle of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah M. Wolfe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin Man Convicted of Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIS

On Oct. 25, 2018, Jason Michael Ludke, of Milwaukee, pled guilty to conspiring to provide material support or resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B(a)(1). Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and Special Agent-in-Charge R. Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division made the announcement today.

According to the plea agreement, Ludke and a co-conspirator agreed that they would travel through Mexico to Syria and Iraq in order to join ISIS and to work under its direction and control. Ludke also recorded a video of himself pledging his allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and stating that he was ready to join ISIS. Ludke told an FBI Undercover Employee (UCE), who Ludke believed was assisting in the travel plans, that Ludke had training in jiu-jitsu and computers, which Ludke believed would benefit ISIS. On Oct. 5, 2016, Ludke and his coconspirator were traveling to the Texas/Mexico border in order to accomplish their plan to join ISIS (in Syria or Iraq), when law enforcement located and arrested them.

Ludke has prior convictions for child sexual assault and for making death threats against a federal judge. Also according to the plea agreement, Ludke was on probation at the time he was arrested and had cut the tracking device from his ankle before leaving Wisconsin.

“This conviction demonstrates the United States’ resolute commitment to protecting our country and combatting foreign terrorism,” United States Attorney Krueger said. “Individuals like Ludke who seek to provide material support to ISIS will be held accountable.”

“The FBI’s number one priority is protecting Americans from terrorism,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Justin Tolomeo. “I commend our Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes our local, state and federal partners, for their investigative efforts in identifying and arresting Jason Ludke that prevented him from joining the ISIS terror group.”

Ludke faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a maximum term of supervised release of life, and a maximum fine of $250,000.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. The sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the JTTF and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Kanter and Benjamin Taibleson and Trial Attorney Jolie F. Zimmerman of the Department’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ohio Man Arrested and Charged with Attempting to Travel to Join ISIS

An Ohio man has been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to ISIS-affiliated foreign terrorist organizations. Naser Almadaoji, 19, an Iraqi-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested yesterday at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. It is alleged Almadaoji intended to travel through Kazakhstan on his way to Afghanistan, where he intended to join with, and fight for, ISIS.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, United States Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio and Assistant Director Michael Garrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division made the announcement.

“Naser Almadaoji allegedly attempted to seek terrorist training in weapons and tactics and discussed a willingness to conduct terrorist ‘projects’ in the United States on behalf of foreign terrorist groups,” said Assistant Attorney Demers. “Protecting America from terrorist activity, including conduct like this, remains the highest priority of the Department of Justice.”

“This is the third individual arrested by the FBI on terrorism charges in just over a week.  As demonstrated by these arrests -- two in Ohio and one in Illinois -- the threat posed by terrorism remains extremely serious,” said Assistant Director McGarrity. “The FBI is working with our law enforcement partners day and night through our Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the nation to identify terrorists and those who support them.  The American public also has an important role to play, and we urge anyone who sees something suspicious to contact law enforcement.  Your tips are vitally important to protecting our country.”

“According to the charging document, Almadaoji wanted to make his way to Afghanistan to train with an ISIS organization,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “He allegedly pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS in a video in which he wore a head scarf, and had plans to cause conflict in America between the United States Government and anti-government militias. These are serious allegations, and thwarting terrorist threats remains a top priority for the United States Attorney’s Office.”

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Almadaoji purchased a plane ticket for travel on October 24. It is alleged that Almadaoji intended to travel to Astana, Kazakhstan, where he planned to be smuggled into Afghanistan so that he could receive military training from ISIS Wilayat Khorasan and then fight for the Islamic State (or one of its affiliates). Almadaoji explained to an individual whom he believed to be in contact with ISIS that he wanted “weapons experts training, planning, executing, hit and run, capturing high value targets, ways to break into homes and avoid security guards. That type of training.”

It is alleged that, between February 16 and 24, 2018, Almadaoji traveled to Egypt and Jordan. Following that travel, in August 2018, Almadaoji allegedly communicated online with an individual he believed was a contact with ISIS organizations. He represented that he tried to join a terrorist organization during his travels to Jordan and Egypt stating, “I don’t wanna say here why I was in Egypt but him [an Egyptian associated] and I planned something and it didn’t work at [sic] well.”

In the same month, it is alleged that Almadaoji told a second individual online – whom he also believed to be associated with ISIS – that he was “always willing” to assist with “projects” in the United States.

According to the affidavit, Almadaoji pledged allegiance to ISIS and discussed with the second contact that he planned to cause the collapse of the United States by starting a conflict between the United States Government and anti-government militias.” Almadaoji allegedly recorded and sent a video of himself wearing a headscarf and pledging allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State.

It is further alleged that Almadaoji translated ISIS propaganda from Arabic to English, and told his contact, “Don’t thank me . . . it’s my duty.”

Attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the assigned judge.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant United States Attorney Dominick S. Gerace. A criminal complaint merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.