SACRAMENTO/MILWAUKEE/HOUSTON -- Federal agents have arrested an Iraqi immigrant in Sacramento, California on a charge that he lied to immigration authorities over his ties to the Islamic State (ISIS) and travel to Syria, and the indictment states the suspect once lived in Milwaukee.
FOX6 News has learned three others were arrested -- and all three are related to the Sacramento suspect. The Sacramento suspect's brother was arrested in Sacramento, while he was visiting his brother. Two other relatives were arrested in Milwaukee. These three people were NOT arrested on terror related charges. All three relatives of the Sacramento suspect live in Milwaukee.
A fifth person was arrested and charged in Texas in a separate case.
The initial suspect arrested in Sacramento is 23-year-old Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab. The criminal complaint, filed by the Office of the United States Attorney Eastern District of California says he was born in Iraq, and he emigrated from Syria to the United States as a refugee in October 2012.
Travel, bank and electronic communications records establish that he lived in the United States from October 2012-November 2013, and again from January 2014-present.
The complaint says after arriving in the United States as a refugee in October 2012, Al-Jayab resided in Tucson, Arizona and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Travel, bank and electronic communications records show he lived in Milwaukee in early November 2013.
He first began to reside in Sacramento upon his return from Syria in late January 2014.
As early as mid-2012, the complaint states Al-Jayab told multiple family members and associates he spoke with via social media that he intended to travel to Syria for "work." The complaint says "based on the tenor and content of Al-Jayab's extensive electronic communications," it was determined "work referred to assisting in and supporting violent jihad."
The complaint indicates Al-Jayab intended on entering Syria through Turkey. Al-Jayab told investigators he had traveled to Turkey in 2013 and 2014 "to see his grandmother and visit the place."
Investigators say Al-Jayab was communicating with people who were "likely in Syria" via social media -- trying to make financial arrangements to get to Syria.
The complaint says on April 25th, 2013, one of the people with whom Al-Jayab was allegedly communicating wrote: to him: "O God, please do not deprive me, my brothers, and my brother Aws from the blessings of jihad in Syria."
On June 30th, 2013, the complaint indicates Al-Jayab wrote to one of the individuals he was communicating with, indicating he was at a gun range in Wisconsin: "I am at the shooting club. I want to learn long range shooting."
On November 6th, 2013 the complaint indicates Al-Jayab received $4,500 via an auto insurance settlement. He was living in Milwaukee at this time.
Two days later, on November 8th, 2013, the complaint indicates Al-Jayab purchased an airline ticket in Chicago and flew to Turkey. He is accused of telling an individual that he was in Turkey and he planned to enter Syria.
On November 19th, 2013, Al-Jayab advised that he had safely arrived in Syria.
Travel records show Al-Jayab returned to Sacramento via London and Los Angeles on January 23rd, 2014.
The complaint says Al-Jayab's "Customs Declaration Form" made no mention of his travel to Turkey and Syria. Jordan and the UK were the only entries on the "countries visited" field.
Additionally, according to the complaint, materials gathered in the course of the investigation show Al-Jayab made no reference to visiting his grandmother during communications exchanged with others via social media from mid-November 2013 through mid-January 2014, when he was in Syria.
In July of 2014, Al-Jayab was interviewed in conjunction with his application for an adjustment of his immigration status. He indicated he had traveled to Turkey and returned to the U.S. in January 2014.
In June of 2015, Al-Jayab was interviewed by FBI agents regarding problems he experienced at the airport when traveling. During that interview, he indicated he had traveled to Turkey for vacation, but denied traveling to Syria.
The complaint says if Al-Jayab would have admitted being in Syria, he would have been asked additional questions and his immigration file may have been subject to further process. Additionally, if he had admitted to supporting terrorist activities or a terrorist group, his refugee status could have been subject to termination.
The complaint indicates intentional misstatements to officials, if proven, could have negatively impacted Al-Jayab's ability to remain in the U.S. as a refugee.
FOX6 News obtained the following statement from the Office of the United States Attorney Eastern District of California, as it relates to the arrest of Al-Jayab. The statement reads as follows:
A Sacramento resident was arrested (Thursday, January 7th) on a federal charge of making a false statement involving international terrorism. Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, is charged in a criminal complaint that was unsealed (Thursday, January 7th) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California following his arrest. He is in custody and will be making an initial appearance Friday (January 8th) in federal court in Sacramento at 2:00 p.m.
The arrest was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California, and Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI’s Sacramento Division.
“Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab allegedly traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorist organizations and lied to U.S. authorities about his activities,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is protecting the nation from terrorism, and we will continue to hold accountable those who seek to join or aid the cause of terrorism, whether at home or abroad.”
“According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendant traveled to Syria to take up arms with terrorist organizations and concealed that conduct from immigration authorities,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “While he represented a potential safety threat, there is no indication that he planned any acts of terrorism in this country. I commend the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for their dedicated work on this matter.”
“In today’s complex terrorism environment, our Joint Terrorism Task Force plays an important role in combating the threat of terrorism. The collaboration is stronger than ever and essential to protect our communities from harm,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Sacramento Field Office. “The public plays an equal, if not more important, role in protecting the community. We encourage those who encounter individuals who express an intent to do harm or claim allegiance to a terrorist group—whether in person or online—to voice their concerns to law enforcement.”
According to the complaint, Al-Jayab is a Palestinian born in Iraq, who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee in October 2012. Between October 2012 and November 2013, while living in Arizona and Wisconsin, he communicated over social media with numerous other individuals about his intent to return to Syria to fight for terrorist organizations. In those communications, according to the complaint, Al-Jayab discussed his previous experience with firearms and with fighting against the regime in Syria. On Nov. 9, 2013, he flew from Chicago to Turkey, and then traveled to Syria. Between November 2013 and January 2014, Al-Jayab allegedly reported on social media that he was in Syria fighting with various terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Islam, a designated foreign terrorist organization since 2004. He returned to the United States on Jan. 23, 2014, and settled in Sacramento.
The complaint alleges that on October 6, 2014, Al-Jayab was interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and responded in the negative to numerous questions, including whether he had ever been a member of any rebel group or militia; whether he had ever provided material support for any person or group engaged in terrorist activity; and whether he had ever been a member of a group, or assisted in a group, which used or threatened the use of weapons against others. Al-Jayab also allegedly stated during the interview that he had traveled to Turkey in late 2013 and early 2014 to visit his grandmother. The complaint alleges that all of those answers were materially false.
If convicted, Al-Jayab faces a maximum statutory penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The charges are only allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Sacramento Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a team of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents and officers investigating domestic and international terrorism. Assistant United States Attorney Jill Thomas and Trial Attorney Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case. The investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas praised the arrest in Houston of what Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called a terror suspect. Patrick said in a statement that the arrests may have prevented a terror-related event.
FOX6 News has obtained a separate criminal complaint was filed by the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of Texas Houston Division.
The accused is 24-year-old Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan.
The criminal complaint states this man is a Palestinian national, born in Iraq. He entered the United States as a refugee on or about November 2, 2009. He was granted legal permanent residence status in the U.S. on August 22nd, 2011. He currently lives in Texas.
This man is charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, and false statement or representation made to an agency of the United States.
The complaint accuses this man of "attempting to provide material support and resources, including personnel, specifically himself, training and expert advice and assistance to a foreign terrorist organization -- namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/ISIS."
The complaint says when applying to become an American citizen, this man responded on his formal application that he was not in any way associated with a terrorist organization -- whereas in truth, he knew he associated with ISIL/ISIS either directly or indirectly.
This man is accused of failing to reveal that he had ever received any type of weapons training when applying to become an American citizen, according to the complaint.
Below is a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of Texas on Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan:
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, a Palestinian born in Iraq, has been charged in a three-count indictment alleging that he attempted to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of Homeland Investigations (HSI) in Houston made the announcement.
The three-count indictment was returned Jan. 6, 2016 and unsealed Jan 7, 2016. He will have his initial appearance Friday, Jan. 8th at 10:00 a.m. in Houston before U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner.
Al Hardan entered the United States as a refugee on or about Nov. 2, 2009. He was granted legal permanent residence status on or about Aug. 22, 2011, and resides in Houston.
He is charged with one count each of attempting to provide material support to ISIL, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully and making false statements.
The indictment alleges that Al Hardan attempted to provide material support and resources, including training, expert advice and assistance, and personnel – specifically himself – to a known foreign terrorist organization. According to the allegations, he also knowingly responded, certified and swore untruthfully on his formal application when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He allegedly represented that he was not associated with a terrorist organization when, in fact, he associated with members and sympathizers of ISIL throughout 2014, according to the charges. The indictment further alleges that during an interview in October 2015, Al Hardan falsely represented that he had never received any type of weapons training, when he allegedly received automatic machine gun training.
The charge of attempting to provide material support to terrorists carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The charge of false citizenship procurement carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism). The charge of making false statements carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. If convicted, any potential sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal history, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.
The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and HSI with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Imperato is prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Kashyap Patel of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.