GAINESVILLE, FL (ALACHUA COUNTY)- According to a news report on wcjb.com, a former resident from Gainesville, Florida, is back in the U.S. and is currently facing terrorism criminal charges. The suspect was arrested overseas and was transported to North-Central Florida on Sunday morning. The suspect has been charged with attempting to provide material support, including personnel (himself) and services, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to the suspect's criminal complaint.
The suspect appeared before Judge Gary Jones at the Federal Court in Gainesville, Florida. The suspect remains in police custody as federal Prosecutors with the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida communicated concerns that the suspect is a flight risk and an imminent danger to the community. The was the suspect's first court appearance. The suspect was being transferred into and out of federal court in an unmarked van.
According to law enforcement officials, the 33-year-old suspect left Gainesville and traveled to Turkey. While in Turkey, the man attempted to enter Syria illegally in 2014. The suspect allegedly tried to join and support ISIS.
According to U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe, this suspect's arrest was the result of years of work between U.S. prosecutors and FBI agents assigned to the Jacksonville Field Office.
U.S. Attorney Keefe stated that terrorists and "would-be" terrorists need to comprehend that "no resource will be spared" in protecting U.S. citizens and prosecuting individuals who try to "provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations."
The suspect's criminal complaint asserts that the suspect had purchased a one-way flight ticket from Orlando, Florida, and arrived in Egypt back in June 2014. However, the suspect paid cash for a one-way ticket during his stop in Turkey. The one-way ticket was to the town of Gaziantep, Turkey, which borders the Turkish/Syrian border.
Turkish authorities arrested the suspect after he illegally crossed into Syria from Turkey. When the suspect was questioned why he was traveling to Syria, the suspect stated that he wanted to see what the war and life was like in Syria. The day of the suspect's arrest, the complaint states that the suspect received an email from one of his relatives stating that they "could not believe how his mind worked, to leave his wife and mother."
In a 2018 FBI interview, the suspect admitted that he purchased a ticket to Egypt with the intention of disguising his actual travel plans from his friends and family.
The suspect told Judge Jones that he and his family were trying to hire a private criminal defense lawyer. Currently, the suspect has an appointed a Federal Public Defender.
The suspect's next court appearance will be at the Federal Court in Gainesville, Florida, on Monday, February 8, 2021 at 2:00 PM. This will be a Preliminary Hearing as well as a Detention Hearing. The suspect will also be required to tell the court know if he hired a private lawyer.
If the suspect is convicted, he could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison plus a $250,000 fine.