A New York pizza shop owner who plotted to shoot U.S. soldiers has admitted trying to recruit fighters to join ISIS in Syria.
Mufid Elfgeeh, 31, helped arrange travel and funding and put one recruit in touch with an English-speaking ISIS militant in Iraq, authorities said.
The naturalized U.S. citizen, who moved to America from Yemen in 1998, used Twitter, WhatsApp and 23 different Facebook accounts to declare his support for violent jihad and pledge allegiance to ISIS.
Elfgeeh, who ran Mojoe’s Famous Pizza and Chicken in Rochester, New York, until his arrest in 2014, bought two handguns and silencers that he planned to use to kill returning U.S. soldiers.
He also purchased a laptop and a camera for two recruits for a planned trip in 2014, as well as paying $240 to help one of them get a birth certificate and expedited passport.
Elfgeeh, who admitted two terror offences, wired $600 via Western Union to a third person in Yemen to help pay for their travel to Syria.
Authorities said he had plotted to send three men to a ‘welcoming camp’ in Syria for jihadist education and training.
Two of the recruits were FBI informants, of which one had been encouraged by the terrorist sympathizer to join fighting overseas in 2013.
The FBI made the guns he bought inoperable before a confidential source gave them to the suspect, the Justice Department statement said following his arrest.
In an earlier conversation with an undercover FBI agent, Elfgeeh spoke about the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya by Al-Shabaab, in which 63 people were killed.
‘Kenya is killing everyone in Somalia. They killing children, women, everyone . . . anybody,’ a court document showed him as saying.
‘They go in there killing everybody, just like the American went into Iraq killing everybody. Just like . . . the Americans surrounding Iraq, everbody, it’s like they go to Afghanistan killing everybody. It’s like they go to Yemen now killing everybody. Doesn’t make no difference.
‘Me, myself, I’m thinking about doing something here to be honest with you . . . I’m thinking about just go buy a big automatic gun from off the street or something and a lot of bullets and just put on a [bulletproof] vest or whatever and just go around and start shooting.’
Elfgeeh was said to have written on Twitter: ‘Al Qaeda said it loud and clear: we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people.’
Under a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of attempting to kill military members and weapons counts, as well as charges of assaulting three sheriff’s deputies while in custody.
‘Elfgeeh wanted to be a source of support for violent jihad and serve as a facilitator for violent jihadists who wanted to travel overseas and fight,’ the plea agreement said.
‘In Elfgeeh’s own postings and messages on social media and statements . . . Elfgeeh stated that a person who helps or sponsors a fighter to engage in violent jihad obtains the same religious rewards from Allah as the fighter himself.’
U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said Elfgeeh was one of the first ISIS recruiters ever arrested in the United States.
Hochul said: ‘As it did in this case, the public should continue to report to law enforcement any suspicious individuals or activities and thereby hasten the demise of these killers.
‘One of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured in this country stands convicted of terrorism-related charges.’
Elfgeeh pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in a plea agreement that recommends a sentence of just under 22-and-a-half years in prison.
He will be sentenced on March 17 next year.