Published September 16, 2014
(Photo: SHAWN DOWD/@sdowdphoto/ , Staff file photo )
A Yemen-born man who had been living in Rochester is accused of recruiting for the terrorist organization, the Islamic State.
Mufid Elfgeeh, a Yemen-born man who managed a Rochester convenience store, tried to give “material support” to the Islamic State, sometimes also known as ISIS or ISIL, a federal indictment handed up Tuesday alleges.
That support, prosecutors allege, consisted of attempts to recruit members to the Islamic State, which has been gaining footholds in Iraq and Syria while trying to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Elfgeeh appears to be one of the first — if not the first — person in the U.S. to be accused of recruiting for the Islamic State.
Federal and local authorities arrested Elfgeeh in late May in a Walmart parking lot after a sting in which an FBI informant offered to sell him guns and silencers, which Elfgeeh allegedly wanted to use to kill returning American troops as well as Shiite Muslims living in the region.
Two confidential informants worked with the FBI in the investigation of Elfgeeh, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
According to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Albert Zenner,Elfgeeh tried to raise money for a Yemeni man to join the Islamic State. He allegedly sent $600 to help the man travel from Yemen to Syria to join the terrorist group.
Elfgeeh also allegedly encouraged the informants to “travel overseas to engage in violent jihad” with the Islamic State.
In April, the affidavit alleges, Elfgeeh and one informant traveled to Buffalo to get a passport for the informant. Elfgeeh allegedly suggested that the Islamic State would likely use the informant “to operate a cannon, act as a sniper and/or build bombs,” Zenner wrote.
Elfgeeh allegedly gave one informant $1,050 in cash to purchase two handguns equipped with silencers and ammunition. On May 31, the informant delivered the handguns, which had been rendered inoperable, to Elfgeeh in the Walmart parking lot, where Elfgeeh was arrested.
Elfgeeh is in custody.
In a news release Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to ISIL and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans.
“As this case shows, our agents and prosecutors are using all the investigative tools at our disposal to break up these plots before individuals can put their plans into action,” he said. “We are focused on breaking up these activities on the front end, before supporters of ISIL can make good on plans to travel to the region or recruit sympathizers to this cause.”
In the same news release, U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said, “With today’s indictment of Mufid Elfgeeh, the government demonstrates that it will use all available tools to disrupt and defeat ISIL. The case also demonstrates that by working with the community, law enforcement is able to identify those who would harm our country or our returning soldiers.”
Elfgeeh is scheduled to appear Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Feldman for arraignment on the indictment.
Elfgeeh faces seven criminal charges in the indictment: three counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, one count of attempting to kill “officers and employees of the United States,” two counts or possession of an unregistered firearm silencer, and a count of possession of firearms and silencers in furtherance of a violent crime.
The claim that Elfgeeh attempted to kill U.S. workers is based on the allegation that he sought firearms for the killings.
“I received a copy of the indictment and I reviewed it,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Hosken, who is representing Elfgeeh. “I will be entering a plea of not guilty to all counts on behalf of Mr. Elfgeeh.”
Authorities had been investigating Elfgeeh since 2013 after an informant raised concerns about Elfgeeh’s alleged rabid anti-American views. In postings on Twitter, authorities allege, Elfgeeh proclaimed an allegiance to al-Qaida.
One Tweet allegedly said: “al-Qaida said it loud and clear; we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people.”
Elfgeeh managed a MoJoe’s Famous Pizza and Chicken, 1193 N. Clinton Ave., and also rented a residence attached to the convenience store.
In July, a fire seriously damaged the market and adjoining apartment. The fire is still under investigation.
The “material support” statutes were used in the prosecution of the so-called Lackawanna Six. Some have been criticized the statutes as being overly broad, but they have not been upended by a constitutional challenge.
The Lackawanna Six were six Yemen-born men living in the Buffalo suburb who, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were accused of attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
The six pleaded guilty to providing “material support” to al-Qaida. They have testified on behalf of federal prosecutors at terrorism-related trials since their 2003 guilty pleas.
June 2014: Federal prosecutors talk about Elfgeeh: SEE VIDEO: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/16/ny-man-accused-trying-to-aid-isis-militants/?intcmp=latestnews A press conference Monday outlined some of the details surrounding the arrest of Mufid A. Elfgeeh. Video by Tina Yee
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – An upstate New York man accused of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military and others faces new charges that he tried to aid the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the group that has been designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
According to court documents, Elfgeeh tried to assist three individuals in traveling to Syria to join and fight with the extremist group in 2013 and early 2014. Prosecutors said two of the individuals were cooperating with the FBI.
“Disrupting and holding accountable those who seek to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations is and shall remain a critical national security priority,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin.
Elfgeeh was arrested earlier this year by members of the FBI’s Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force after federal authorities said he bought two handguns and two silencers as part of a plan to kill members of the U.S. armed forces returning from war, as well as Shiites in the Rochester area.
The investigation included linking Elfgeeh’s home computer to tweets from alias Twitter accounts expressing support for al-Qaida, violent holy war and Sunni insurgent groups in Syria, according to court papers.
The FBI said it had been investigating Elfgeeh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, since early last year.
Information on Elfgeeh’s lawyer was not immediately available.