West New York man pleads guilty to conspiring to provide support to ISIS

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A West New York man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the terrorist group ISIS, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced. 

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman at Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez's swearing in on September 17.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman at Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez’s swearing in on September 17.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Alaa Saddeh, 24, of West New York, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring with others to provide material support to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), better known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), in front of U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court.

“Alaa Saadeh is the second defendant in this case who has admitted trying to provide material support to a known terrorist organization,” Fishman said in a statement.

“That organization, and others who share its goals, are intent on recruiting people in this country and around the world to join their campaign against our security. The fight against these kinds of groups is going on around the world, but is also being waged here at home.”

“They are intent on threatening the safety of Americans here and abroad, and we and our law enforcement partners are intent on stopping them.”

Saadeh was arrested in June, less than two weeks after a Fort Lee man who was born in West New York was arrested on nearly identical charges (though Saadeh was also initially charged with witness tampering).

Samuel Rahamin Topaz pleaded guilty on September 9.

When Saadeh was arrested, authorities revealed some of the details regarding the groups terror plot.

The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) have been investigating a group of individuals from New York and New Jersey who have allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIS, authorities said.

Co-Conspirator 1 (CC-1) is Saadeh’s brother and was a resident of Rutherford, until departing the United States on May 5, 2015, allegedly to join ISIS, according to the criminal complaint.

Co-Conspirator 2 (CC-2) was a resident of Queens, New York, until he was arrested on June 13 in New York on terrorism charges. Samuel Rahamin Topaz was a resident of Fort Lee until he was arrested on June 17 in New Jersey and charged with conspiring to provide services and personnel to ISIS.

On May 5, CC-1 attempted to travel from New Jersey to the Middle East, via John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly in order to join ISIS, authorities said.

CC-1 was accompanied to JFK by Saadeh and CC-2. On the way to the airport, CC-1 stated that he, Saadeh, CC-2 and Topaz had plans to reunite overseas within a few weeks, according to the complaint.

After CC-1’s departure, and despite learning from CC-1’s family that he had been arrested in Jordan on suspicion of supporting ISIS, Saadeh, CC-2 and Topaz continued to discuss their plan to travel overseas to join ISIS, court documents show.

Electronic communications later recovered from Topaz’s phone allegedly corroborated their plans.

On May 21, Saadeh and Topaz discussed that they needed to “lay low” and refrain from taking action in furtherance of the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS that might be detected by law enforcement, authorities said.

Saadeh and Topaz also discussed needing to meet in person to discuss “hijra.” Topaz later told members of the JTTF that he and his conspirators used the term “hijra” (often spelled “hijrah”) to refer to traveling overseas to join ISIS, officials said.

The criminal complaint goes on to state that the next day, Saadeh told another individual that he suspected that CC-2 or Topaz had “snitched” on CC-1 and caused his arrest overseas, and that, if true, Saadeh thought he would have to “kill someone.”

In recorded conversations with an informant, Saadeh revealed his support for ISIS, including the terrorist organization’s use of beheadings and mass killings to impose its violent agenda.

Saadeh also stated that he planned to travel overseas with CC-2 “at some point.” Saadeh further stated that he knew CC-1 planned to travel to join ISIS before CC-1 departed the United States, and that he bought CC-1’s airline ticket despite knowing this.

The investigation revealed that Saadeh provided CC-1 transportation and removed a SIM card from CC-1’s phone in an apparent effort hide incriminating communications and other data, officials said.

In June, after becoming aware that he was under FBI surveillance, Saadeh directed an individual in New Jersey not to tell the FBI about CC-1’s support for ISIS or CC-1’s plans to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Saadeh instructed the individual to “play dumb” and be “honest up to a point,” but to be sure not to tell the FBI anything about ISIL.

Each count in the complaint carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Saadeh’s criminal complaint can be read here.