Adam Raishani, aka “Saddam Mohamed Raishani,” 32, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to 20 years in prison to be followed by 20 years of supervised release for attempting to provide and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. 

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York made the announcement. Raishani pleaded guilty to a Superseding Information on Nov. 14, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who also imposed today’s sentence.

“Raishani tried to leave his young family to travel overseas to join ISIS,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Fortunately, he was arrested before he could leave the country.  Raishani is the latest in the long line of would-be terrorists whom we have arrested and prosecuted before they could accomplish their mission to provide material support to ISIS overseas.  I commend the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this result.”

“Adam Raishani may be a U.S. citizen, but he pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the terrorist organization that seeks to destroy the ideals inherent to America,” said U.S. Attorney Berman.  “In his efforts to show support to the organization, he helped another man make a trip to the Middle East so that he could join and train.  Then, a year later, Raishani decided to follow him, leaving Raishani’s wife and child behind in the United States.  Thankfully law enforcement was there to arrest him before he could make his dream of jihad a reality.  Now, Raishani will spend the next 20 years of his life behind bars for his treachery.”

According to the Superseding Information, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:

Beginning in the fall of 2015, Raishani conspired with another ISIS supporter (CC-1) to provide material support and resources to ISIS.  Raishani and CC-1 agreed to travel overseas to join and wage jihad for ISIS, with CC-1 to depart first.  On Oct. 30, 2015, CC-1 departed from JFK Airport for Istanbul, Turkey, where he planned to cross into Syria to join and fight for ISIS.  Raishani helped coordinate CC-1’s transportation from the Bronx, New York, to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport), and Raishani accompanied CC-1 from the Bronx to JFK Airport.

Raishani continued communicating with CC-1 following CC-1’s departure, using an encrypted email application in an effort to avoid law enforcement detection.  For example, on Jan. 2, 2016, Raishani sent an email to CC-1 stating:  “Glad tidings brother. Its [sic] been some time since your voyage. I pray to Allah The ALL MIGHTY to grant you success. Until next time.”[1]  On April 1, 2016, Raishani sent another email to CC-1 stating:  “I hope Allah has bestowed you what you were seeking. . . . May Allah grant you sincere and clean intentions and make you among the righteous in Janatal Firdaus [a reference to Islamic paradise]. . . . Please return this email and respond to what we agreed upon before your departure. Until next time.”  On May 3, 2016, CC-1 responded to Raishani, indicating that he had succeeded in joining the Islamic State.  CC-1 informed Raishani that CC-1 was “fine and well,” that CC-1 “wished you [Raishani] were here with me,” and that “here we are living with izza [honor].”

Also in May 2016, CC-1 posted content on a particular social media application (Application-1) indicating that CC-1 was living in the Islamic State and fighting on its behalf.  For example, CC-1 sent messages to another user of Application-1 stating:  “I’m living in the Islamic state safely and secure by the permission of Allah,” “[h]ere we are fighting the kuffars [non-believers],” and “I left the land of kuffars now I’m living in the khilafah [the caliphate].”  CC-1 also posted a photograph on Application-1 that shows CC-1 carrying an assault rifle and the flag of ISIS. 

Between January and June of 2017, Raishani had a series of meetings with individuals who were, unbeknownst to Raishani, a confidential source working at the direction of law enforcement and an undercover law enforcement officer.  In the course of those meetings, Raishani admitted that he had previously helped another person (CC-1) travel overseas to join ISIS, and stated that he intended to travel overseas to join ISIS himself.  During those meetings, Raishani also downloaded and viewed violent ISIS propaganda videos, and expressed his desire to wage jihad on behalf of ISIS and his belief that the Quran can be read to justify the violence, including beheadings, perpetrated by ISIS.   

By April 2017, Raishani was actively planning to travel abroad to join ISIS.  Raishani indicated that he aspired to join ISIS in Syria and that he aimed to travel before the end of Ramadan, an Islamic holy month that ran from approximately May 26 through June 24 of 2017.  In June 2017, Raishani made preparations to leave, including by paying off debts and purchasing clothing that he intended to wear for training with ISIS overseas.  Raishani indicated his intention to meet an ISIS member in Turkey, who would facilitate Raishani’s joining the terrorist organization in Syria.  In the course of communications with an undercover law enforcement officer, Raishani conveyed that he was prepared to die, to martyr himself, for ISIS.  On June 21, 2017, Raishani attempted to board a flight bound for Turkey (via Portugal) at JFK Airport, at which point law enforcement officers arrested him.

Following Raishani’s arrest, the FBI searched Raishani’s Bronx residence pursuant to a search warrant.  Among the evidence recovered was a letter from Raishani addressed to members of his family, which the FBI found in a safe in Raishani’s bedroom.  In the letter, Raishani – who left behind his wife and young son when he attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS – advised his wife that she could still choose to “[j]oin” him in the Islamic State, and he expressed regret that she did not share his radical views and that he had been unable to convince her to accompany him to join ISIS.  Raishani also wrote:  “Do Not Divulge this document and other documents that I have giv[en] to you to the authorities.  Do not believe their plots.  Do not divulge my absences but instead say I went to do volunteering outside the country with my medical skills and health background.”

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In addition to the prison term, Raishani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to 20 years of supervised release.

Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD, and the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.  Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman also thanked the New York Office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sidhardha Kamaraju, Jane Kim, and George D. Turner are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Kevin C. Nunnally of the Counterterrorism Section.

[1] Communications and conversations discussed herein are described in substance and in part.

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