NY Pizzeria Owner Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Islamic State Recruitment

Mufid A. Elfgeeh
Travis County Sheriffs Office via Getty Images

A Muslim pizzeria owner in upstate New York, who admitted to law enforcement that he tried to recruit jihadists for the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison and 27 years of supervised release, U.S. officials have announced.

Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 31, a naturalized American citizen from Yemen, was convicted of trying to provide material support and resources to ISIS.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) notes in a press release issued Thursday:

Elfgeeh sent anti-American ISIL propaganda videos to one of the individuals and arranged for an English-speaking ISIL contact located in Iraq to communicate with that person over Facebook. In addition, Elfgeeh paid more than $240 for that individual to obtain a copy of his birth certificate, passport photographs and an expedited passport.

Elfgeeh also purchased a laptop computer and a high-definition action camera for both individuals to take to Syria. The defendant further provided guidance to them about traveling so that they could avoid detection and be prepared for the vetting process involved in joining ISIL. In May 2014, Elfgeeh arranged for an overseas contact to coordinate the logistics of the trip and the admission of both individuals into ISIL-controlled territory in Syria.

Court documents show that the defendant also provided $600 to a third individual in Yemen, with the intention of assisting that individual in traveling to Syria for the purpose of engaging in jihad on behalf of ISIS.

“In March 2014, Elfgeeh communicated with a Syrian national alleged to be the military commander of the Green Battalion of the United Rebels of Homs-Al-Murabitun, a group of fighters located in Homs, Syria,” reports DOJ. “At the time, the battalion was blockaded in Homs and needed military support, including ammunition, mortar shells and explosives that could penetrate armored vehicles, to break out.”

“Elfgeeh facilitated communication and coordination between the battalion commander and ISIL leadership for the purpose of the commander and his battalion pledging their allegiance to and joining ISIL,” it adds.

The defendant is also accused of using social media to receive and spread propaganda about foreign terrorist organizations and their activities in Syria and other countries.

A plea agreement and other court documents revealed that Elfgeeh used Twitter, WhatsApp, and 23 Facebook accounts to disseminate propaganda about ISIS jihadists and their activities in Syria and elsewhere.

Furthermore, Elfgeeh declared “his support for violent jihad, ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups,” points out DOJ.

The U.S. government adds that he also inspired and encouraged “others to engage in violent jihad and/or pledge allegiance to ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups; and to seek financial contributions to assist jihadist fighters.”

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of the FBI’s Buffalo Division announced Elfgeeh’s sentence on Thursday.

Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss weapons counts and a charge of attempting to kill military members, in addition to charges of assaulting three sheriff’s deputies while in custody, reveals DOJ.

Elfgeeh is among the first ISIS recruiters ever arrested in the United States, revealed Hochul.


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