SAN DIEGO, CA — Syrian-born San Diego resident and naturalized U.S. citizen Mohamad Saeed Kodaimati pleaded guilty this week to lying to federal officials about knowing members of ISIS. He admitted to being involved with another terror group, and lying about engaging in combat or firing a weapon in Syria during a March terrorism-related interview at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey.
In a plea deal, Saeed, 24, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and State Department officials. The FBI stated that during an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Saeed lied and said that he did not know any member of the designated terror organization the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS).
Saeed also falsely claimed during the March interview that he was never involved with another designated terror group, Al Nusrah. The FBI stated, “In his plea agreement, Saeed admitted that he knew a member of ISIL, and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah fighters.”
Court documents produced in April alleged that Saeed told an associate, “I am currently the media person for the Shari’ah Authority.”
“When the defendant returned to San Diego after fighting abroad alongside international terrorists, he found HSI and FBI at his doorstep,” said Dave Shaw, SAC for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.
“Lying to federal agents—particularly in a terrorism probe—is a crime that has the potential to influence an investigation or even jeopardize national security,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “This is especially true when, as here, the defendant lied about what he was doing and who he was associating with in a combat zone in Syria.”
The criminal complaint details Saeed’s country of origin as Syria. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008. Saeed left San Diego for Istanbul in December 2012 and remained in Turkey and Syria until his return early in March of this year, over two years after he left.
For the crime of “False Statements Involving International Terrorism, in violation 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2)” Saeed faces no more than eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea deal, the government defense will recommend a 96 month sentence.
San Diego is home to a large population of government-designated refugees. A June KPBS article estimated that nearly 80,000 Iraqis reside in San Diego. The County of San Diego reported back in 2011, “During FFY 2007 – 2011, a total of 40,994 refugees resettled in California, the majority of which originated from Iran (15,972) and Iraq (14,610). According to data from the California Department of Social Services – Refugee Programs Bureau, California resettled 4,974 refugees during FFY 2011.”
In addition, government reports from 2013 and released by the Intercept in 2014 list San Diego as fourth on a list of U.S. cities with the largest number of known or suspected terrorists.
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