Thursday, November 29, 2018

DOD Identifies Three Operation Freedom's Sentinel Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers and one airman who were supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

The service members died Nov. 27, 2018, from injuries sustained when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

The soldiers were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The airman was assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The incident is under investigation.

The deceased are:

Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

For more information regarding Capt. Andrew P. Ross and Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Emond, media may contact Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at 910-432-3383 or by email at

For more information regarding Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, media may contact the 24th Special Operations Wing public affairs office at 850-884-3902 or 413-237-4466.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bronx Men Plead Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Explosives Charges

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that CHRISTIAN TORO and TYLER TORO pled guilty to manufacturing and possessing a destructive device, and conspiring to do so, in connection with their stockpiling of explosive materials and manufacture of a destructive device.  Both defendants pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.  They are scheduled to be sentenced on March 26, 2019, CHRISTIAN TORO at 11:00 a.m. and TYLER TORO at 2:00 p.m.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As admitted in court today, Christian Toro and Tyler Toro sought to build a destructive device that could have caused great damage.  Christian Toro used a minor student to assist him in this endeavor.  Thanks to the excellent work of the FBI and the NYPD, no one was injured as a result of this grave conduct, and the defendants now await sentencing for their crimes.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint, the Indictment, and statements made during court proceedings:

Between approximately October 2017 and February 2018, CHRISTIAN TORO and TYLER TORO conspired to build and possess a destructive device at their residence in the Bronx, New York (the “Residence”).  CHRISTIAN TORO, a former teacher at a high school in Harlem, New York (the “School”), paid students from the School for their assistance in manufacturing the destructive device, doling out approximately $50 per hour in return for the students’ work dismantling fireworks and storing the explosive powder contained within those fireworks in containers.  CHRISTIAN TORO also had on his School laptop a copy of a book that provided instructions for, among other things, manufacturing explosive devices.

On February 15, 2018, law enforcement agents searched the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant.  In a bedroom shared by CHRISTIAN TORO and TYLER TORO, law enforcement agents recovered numerous components for use in building a destructive device and other dangerous substances, including: (i) a glass jar containing low explosive powder; (ii) a strip of magnesium metal; (iii) approximately twenty pounds of iron oxide; (iv) approximately five pounds of aluminum powder; (v) a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum powder, the key ingredients for thermite; (vi) approximately five pounds of potassium nitrate; (vii) a cardboard box containing firecrackers; and (viii) metal spheres, which can be used as fragmentation for a bomb.

Also in the Residence, law enforcement agents found a handwritten diary labeled with TYLER TORO’s name, which stated, among other things, “WE ARE TWIN TOROS STRIKE US NOW, WE WILL RETURN WITH NANO THERMITE” and “I AM HERE 100%, LIVING, BUYING WEAPONS.  WHATEVER WE NEED.”  Agents also recovered a page inside a notebook found in the Residence labeled “Operation Flash,” with a ledger appearing to delineate the hours worked and payment owed to one of the School’s students.

*                *                *

CHRISTIAN TORO, 28, and TYLER TORO, 28, both of the Bronx, New York, each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture and unlawfully possess a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of unlawfully possessing a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the defendants’ sentences will be determined by Judge Berman.

U.S. Attorney Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Hanft is in charge of the prosecution.

Monday, November 26, 2018

New York Woman Pleads Guilty to Providing Material Support to ISIS

Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, of Brentwood, New York, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. for the FBI’s New York Field Office, and Commissioner James P. O’Neill for the NYPD announced the guilty plea.  The guilty plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.

According to court filings and facts presented at the plea hearing, between March 2017 and the date of her attempted travel to Syria on July 31, 2017, the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud numerous financial institutions.  Specifically, Shahnaz obtained a loan for approximately $22,500 by way of materially false pretenses, representations and promises.  She also fraudulently applied for and used over a dozen credit cards, which she used to purchase approximately $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online.  She then engaged in a pattern of financial activity, culminating in several wire transactions totaling over $150,000 to individuals and shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey that were fronts for ISIS.

During the time she was committing bank fraud and laundering money overseas, the defendant was accessing ISIS propaganda online, including violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known ISIS recruiters, facilitators and financiers.  Additionally, the defendant conducted numerous internet searches for information that would facilitate her entry into Syria, but ultimately was intercepted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, New York, while attempting to board a flight with a multi-day layover in Istanbul, Turkey – a common point of entry for individuals travelling from Western countries to join ISIS in Syria.

As part of her plea agreement with the government, Shahnaz admitted to defrauding numerous financial institutions and laundering the stolen proceeds out of the country with the intent to support a specified unlawful activity, namely the provision of material support to ISIS, after which she attempted to leave the United States and travel to Syria.

When she is sentenced, Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution, criminal forfeiture and a fine.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  Any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Mr. Demers and Mr. Donoghue extended their grateful appreciation to the FBI’s JTTF, which comprises a number of federal, state and local agencies from the region.

The government’s case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Joseph Attias of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.