Charlotte man convicted for attempting to recruit people for ISIS, court officials say

Charlotte man convicted for attempting to recruit people for ISIS, court officials say

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte man was convicted by a jury in Ohio for attempting and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS).

According to the United States Department of Justice, Erick Jamal Hendricks used social media to recruit people to train together and conduct terrorist attacks in the United States on behalf of ISIS. A federal complaint charged Hendricks in August 2016 and his case is being prosecuted out of the Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney's Office.

Hendricks, a former Columbia resident, moved to Charlotte nearly a month before he was arrested. He was arrested at his home on Aug. 4 2016, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Assistant Attorney General Demers released this statement:

"Thanks to the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, Hendricks' plan was thwarted, and with today's verdict he is being held accountable for his terrorist activities."

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said that Hendricks reportedly "recruited and directed people here in the United States to launch attacks against our citizens, and attempted to recruit others to engage in similar attacks."

"Protecting our citizens from terrorist attacks remains our priority and our community will be safer with this defendant behind bars," Herdman said.

According to the complaint, a man was arrested in June 2015 after attempting to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition from an undercover law enforcement officer.  That man had pledged allegiance to ISIS in social media and made statements expressing interest in conducting attacks in the United States, according to federal officials.

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Hendricks had reportedly contacted Al-Ghazi over social media to recruit him in the spring of 2015, according to court officials. Hendricks allegedly told Al-Ghazi that he "needed people" and wanted to meet in person. Hendricks said there were several "brothers" located in Texas and Mexico and he was attempting to "get brothers to meet face to face" and train together.

According to the complaint, a man was arrested in June 2015 after attempting to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition from an undercover law enforcement officer.  That man had pledged allegiance to ISIS in social media and made statements expressing interest in conducting attacks in the United States, according to federal officials.

Hendricks had contacted the man over social media to recruit him in the spring of 2015, according to the complaint. Hendricks allegedly told the man that he "needed people" and wanted to meet in person. Hendricks said there were several "brothers" located in Texas and Mexico and he was attempting to "get brothers to meet face to face" and train together.

According to the complaint, Hendricks tested the man's religious knowledge and commitment, inquiring about his willingness to commit "jihad," to die as a "martyr" and his desire to enter "jannah" (paradise).

The man told federal officials he believed Hendricks and the "brothers in Texas and Mexico" may have been responsible for a thwarted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, in May 2015.

Following that, the man decided to stay away from social media for a period following the attack to minimize detection by law enforcement, he told federal officials.

According to the complaint, Hendricks communicated over social media with several other people, including an undercover FBI employee.

According to the complaint, on April 16, 2015, Hendricks instructed the undercover agent to download the document "GPS for the Ghuraba in the U.S.", which included a section entitled "Final Advice" which advocated that "brothers and sisters" should not allow themselves to go to jail.

It encouraged Muslims to die as a "Shaheed" (martyr), to "Boobie trap your homes," to "lay in wait for them" and to "never leave your home without your AK-47 or M16."

According to the complaint, Hendricks also directed the undercover agent to communicate online with other people and stated "It's hard to sift through brothers;" "Allah chooses only the few;" and "Everyday I do this day in and day out."

Hendricks allegedly told another person that his goal was to create a sleeper cell to be trained and housed at a secure compound that would conduct attacks in the United States.

He mentioned that potential targets included military members whose information had been released by ISIS and the woman who organized the "Draw Prophet Mohammad contest," and he claimed to have 10 members signed up for his group, according to allegations in the complaint.

In April 2015, Hendricks allegedly used social media to contact Elton Simpson, who, along with Nadir Hamid Soofi, was inspired by ISIS and launched the attack on the "First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" in Garland.

Simpson and Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard, before Garland police returned fire and killed both Simpson and Soofi.

According to the complaint, Hendricks also connected the undercover agent with Simpson via social media; communicated with the undercover agent about the contest in Garland; and directed the agent to go to the contest.

"If you see that pig (meaning the organizer of the contest) make your 'voice' heard against her," Hendricks allegedly said.

According to the complaint, he also asked the undercover agent a series of questions related to security at the event, including: "How big is the gathering?" "How many ppl?(sic)" "How many police/agents?" "Do you see feds there?' "Do you see snipers?" and "How many media?"  Shortly thereafter, Simpson and Soofi committed the attack on the cartoon drawing contest.

According to the Observer, Hendricks claimed to have been a paid informant of the FBI since 2009 who helped the agency identify potential terrorists.

He also claimed to have been an outspoken and longtime opponent of radical Islam.

According to the Observer, Hendricks only had minor traffic infractions and failure to pay child support charges on his adult record prior to being charged for attempting to provide material support for ISIS.

Hendricks faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. His sentencing has yet to be announced.

The FBI is urging the public to report any information regarding people who pledge their allegiance to ISIS or other terrorist groups.

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