U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of New York
(212) 637-2600
January 20, 2015

Brooklyn Man Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 15 Years in Prison for Providing Material Support to al Qaeda

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, announced that WESAM EL-HANAFI was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 15 years in prison for his extensive efforts to support Al Qaeda—including financial support and facilitating surveillance of a New York City landmark for an attack—that spanned nearly three years. EL-HANAFI was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in April 2010 and transferred to United States custody. On June 10, 2012, EL-HANAFI pled guilty to one count of providing and attempting to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda, and one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda, before U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood, who also imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Wesam El-Hanafi was deeply involved in supporting Al Qaeda both financially and by facilitating surveillance of a New York landmark to bring an attack to our homeland in our city. Today’s sentence is a fitting punishment for these crimes and we will continue, with our law enforcement partners, to pursue punishment for those who provide and conspire to provide material support for terrorists.”

According to various public filings and statements made during public proceedings, including today’s sentencing:

From 2007 through late 2009, EL-HANAFI supported Al Qaeda in a variety of ways. In 2007, EL-HANAFI and his co-defendant Sabirhan Hasanoff developed contact with individuals whom they understood to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. After a period of providing financial support to these individuals, in February 2008, EL-HANAFI traveled to Yemen to meet with two terrorist operatives who EL-HANAFI understood were members of Al Qaeda. While in Yemen, EL-HANAFI swore an oath of allegiance, called bayat, to Al Qaeda and delivered money and other items, including a laptop computer, to the terrorist operatives. EL-HANAFI also taught the terrorist operatives in Yemen covert Internet communications techniques and supplied them with encryption tools that would facilitate communicating without detection. EL-HANAFI and Hasanoff additionally sent other items, including remote-controlled devices capable of use in an explosives attack, to EL-HANAFI’s terrorist contacts in Yemen.

EL-HANAFI and Hasanoff together funneled approximately $67,000 to terrorist operatives overseas. EL-HANAFI and Hasanoff collected some of this money from a third individual who resided in the United States. During this time, both EL-HANAFI and Hasanoff used aliases to disguise the source of their money when making cash donations to their terrorist contacts.

Moreover, at the direction of his Yemen-based terrorist contacts, EL-HANAFI assigned Hasanoff to perform surveillance of locations in the United States, including the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan, as potential targets of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda. EL-HANAFI received Hasanoff’s report of his surveillance of the New York Stock Exchange, and sent that report to the terrorist operatives in Yemen.

EL-HANAFI and Hasanoff also undertook efforts to enable their own travel to engage in jihad in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Their Al Qaeda contacts would not facilitate EL-HANAFI’s and Hasanoff’s travel for jihad, however, because Al Qaeda viewed the two men as more valuable for potential attacks on U.S. soil.

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In addition to his prison term, EL-HANAFI, 39, a citizen of the United States, who formerly resided in Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release. EL-HANAFI was also ordered to pay a $200 special assessment fee and forfeiture in the amount of $70,000.

Hasanoff pled guilty on June 4, 2012, to one count of providing and attempting to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda, and one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda. On September 30, 2013, Hasanoff was sentenced to a total term of 18 years in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, and was ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $70,000.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York-based Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”)—which principally consists of special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives of the New York City Police Department. Mr. Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs, the Kansas City-based JTTF, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri for their extraordinary assistance in this matter.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Cronan, Aimee Hector, Michael Lockard, and Brendan R. McGuire are in charge of the prosecution.

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