Ohio Man Indicted for Providing Material Support to al Qaeda, Falsely Obtaining and Using Travel Documents
|Washington, D.C. June 14, 2004|
Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Gregory G. Lockhart of the Southern District of Ohio, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced today that a federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio has indicted an Ohio man for providing material support to al Qaeda, as well as obtaining and using fraudulent travel documents.
Nuradin M. Abdi, 32, a Somali national living in Columbus, was named in a four-count indictment returned under seal in the U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio on June 10, 2004. The indictment was unsealed today prior to an initial appearance before a magistrate judge. Count One of the indictment charges Adbi with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A. Specifically, the indictment alleges that on April 27, 1999, Abdi applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service—now known as the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—for a travel document, wherein he concealed his destination by representing that he intended to visit Germany and Saudi Arabia for the purpose of "Umrah (Holly[sic] - Mecca) and visit my relative," when he allegedly planned to travel to Ogaden, Ethiopia, for the purpose of obtaining military-style training in preparation for violent jihad. Abdi allegedly sought training in radio usage, guns, guerilla warfare and bombs. A conviction on a charge of violating 18 U.S.C. 2339A carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Count Two of the indictment charges Abdi with conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B. Al Qaeda was designated an FTO by the Secretary of State on Oct. 8, 1999, and redesignated as such in October 2001 and October 2003. A conviction on a charge of violating 18 U.S.C. 2339B carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Count Three of the indictment charges Abdi with fraud and misuse of documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1546(a). The indictment alleges that on or about June 11, 1999, Abdi possessed a false Refugee Travel Document, a document that had been required by the INS for entry into the United States. Abdi allegedly represented that he had been granted valid asylum status, when in fact his application had been procured by means of false statements. Count Four alleges that Abdi used the fraudulently obtained travel document to re-enter the United States from Africa.
The government intends to seek a terrorism enhancement on the immigration fraud charges. The government will seek the 25-year maximum sentence on each immigration charge, as those violations were allegedly committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism. Each count also carries a potential $250,000 fine.
A detention motion filed by the government in the Southern District of Ohio alleges that in March 2000, Abdi re-entered the United States from Africa using the immigration document gained through fraud. According to the detention motion, one of Abdi's co-conspirators was Iyman Faris, a convicted al Qaeda operative, who picked him up from the airport in Columbus, Ohio. Faris is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for providing material support, and conspiracy to provide material support, to al Qaeda.
Upon returning to the Columbus, Ohio, area, it is alleged that Abdi, along with admitted al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris and other co-conspirators, initiated a plot to blow up a Columbus area shopping mall. It is also alleged that in pursuit of this plot, Abdi received bomb-making instructions from one of those co-conspirators.
"America offers freedom and the protection of human dignity to oppressed people who come to our shores," said Attorney General Ashcroft. "Unfortunately, some American citizens, as well as others given haven here, have chosen to betray these values, and to support the terrorists' goals and plots."
"Today's indictment is the result of intensive investigation and global cooperation, coordinated by our Joint Terrorism Task Force," U.S. Attorney Lockhart said. "Their persistence and perseverance underscores our commitment to keep Americans safe from acts of terrorism."
"Today's indictment demonstrates how the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are working in partnership to prevent acts of terrorism," said Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge. " Working with the nation's Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Homeland Security's ICE agents are able to investigate violations of immigration law as part of ongoing terrorism investigations. This is an important tool in our efforts to protect the nation against terrorism."
This case was investigated by the Southern Ohio Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multi-agency operation that includes agents and officers from 15 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
The investigation was a joint investigation by agents and officers of the JTTF, specifically ICE Special Agents Bob Medellin and Rich Wilkens; and FBI Special Agents John Corbin and Steve Flowers, working under the direction of FBI Special Agent in Charge Kevin Brock of the Cincinnati Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dana M. Peters from the Southern District of Ohio and Sylvia Kaser, Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.