Alaa Saadeh, a New Jersey man who pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State in October, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday.
“The 24-year-old West New York resident, a former supervisor at a Staples store, planned to travel overseas to join the Islamic State group and allowed his brother to buy a plane ticket with Saadeh’s credit card to fly there to join the organization, federal prosecutors said. The government also alleged Saadeh sought to erase evidence of his brother’s trip by tampering with a cellphone, and counseled an associate to lie to the FBI if questioned,” reports the Associated Press.
NBC News adds that Saadeh was accused of helping to organize a “small army” of ISIS fighters in New Jersey and New York, allowing the cell to meet at his apartment.
Another member of the group, Samuel Rahamin Topaz, has previously entered a guilty plea. His lawyer said that if they could not get to Syria to join the Islamic State, they considered “buying guns inside the US and targeting the White House and other landmarks for an attack.”
The AP adds that at Saadeh’s plea hearing in December, he admitted to looking at diagrams for bombs and discussing Times Square, the World Trade Center, and Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens as possible targets with his terror cell.
NBC notes that Saadeh’s parents were deported over a decade ago due to allegations of credit card fraud, but their children were “allowed to stay with custodians in New Jersey because they were US citizens.”
During his sentencing hearing, Saadeh admitted to smoking a lot of weed before he became radicalized and said his friends misled him when they talked about Islam and ISIS.
“These people are not who they claim they are,” he said. “They are making it worse for Muslim people.”
“I feel I could have taken so many different routes concerning this situation,” Saadeh added. “It saddens me that I had any part in even a little of this.”
The AP reports that U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton was skeptical of Saadeh’s apology, as was Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Judson Welle, who noted that Saadeh could easily have blown the whistle on the terrorist cell, but instead he “planned it, facilitated it, and agreed to help cover it up.”
Prior to this case, Saadeh reportedly had no criminal record. He was employed as the supervisor at a Staples office-supply store.