Chad Garland, Stars and Stripes, November 10, 2020
An American woman who helped her husband and brother-in-law join the Islamic State in Syria by smuggling cash and gold overseas has been sentenced to 6½ years in prison after pleading guilty to financing terrorism.
Samantha Elhassani, 35, formerly of Elkhart, Ind., was also sentenced to three years of supervised release Monday at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Elhassani, also known as Samantha Sally, is the only American woman repatriated from Syria to face charges for supporting ISIS, DOJ said last month.
In a plea agreement last November, Elhassani said that on two trips to Hong Kong in 2014 and 2015, she took with her over $30,000 in cash that she did not declare on customs forms and gold that she melted down to look like jewelry.
On a third and final trip to Hong Kong in March 2015, Elhassani acquired rifle scopes, image-stabilized binoculars and other tactical gear. Shortly thereafter, she and her family, including her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, left for Syria by way of Istanbul, Turkey, the Justice Department said.
One of her children had appeared in an ISIS propaganda video threatening to attack the West, BBC reported.
Her husband was killed in an airstrike while fighting for ISIS, as the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces sought to oust the jihadi group from its strongholds. She and her children fled and were taken into SDF custody before being handed over to U.S. law enforcement authorities in July 2018.
Elhassani had told Frontline and the BBC that she had been tricked into going to Syria by her husband, Moroccan national Moussa Elhassani.