Ohio teenager accused of trying to join ISIS after FBI sting
A 19-year-old Ohio resident has been arrested and charged with attempting to support ISIS, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Court documents said Naser Almadaoji, an Iraqi-born US citizen, was arrested on Wednesday at an airport in Columbus, Ohio, following communication online with people he believed to be affiliated with ISIS and coordinated with an undercover FBI employee to travel overseas in order to join an ISIS group.
The announcement noted that “attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization is a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.”
Reached for comment by CNN, an attorney listed for Almadaoji said he was “prohibited from commenting on the specifics of the case” per local rules for Ohio’s Southern District.
“At this stage, I can only say that my client is a 19 year old citizen of the United States who is presumed by our law to be innocent of this charge, and that we intend to vigorously defend his case,” attorney James Fleisher said in an email.
According to an affidavit, Almadaoji traveled to Egypt and Jordan in February 2018 and he later “communicated online with individuals he believed to be working for ISIS.” He spoke with two FBI sources he took to be ISIS supporters starting in August, and he eventually sent one of them a video of himself pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, the document said.
He eventually met with an FBI undercover employee and discussed a jewelry heist to fund travel overseas to join an ISIS affiliate. The undercover employee eventually told Almadaoji about a credit-card scheme that could get them the funds, and the documents said records showed Almadaoji got tickets for an October 24 flight from Ohio to Washington and then Frankfurt, Germany, with a final destination in Astana, Kazakstan. He had previously discussed being smuggled into Afghanistan where he could meet an ISIS group.
But on Wednesday, the affidavit said, “After Almadaoji obtained his boarding pass and walked towards TSA security, law-enforcement officers arrested him.”