ISIS may be knocked out of Syria, but the group is alive in the U.S., both in distributing its poisonous ideology and translating that into actual plots. Here are three ISIS supporters that law enforcement caught — two were in the process of planning attacks. Two were sentenced to almost 16 years in prison each and will have years of supervised release afterwards. The third, surprising, got only seven years.
A 22-year old from New Jersey was sentenced to 16 years in prison for planning a bombing attack in New York City for ISIS.
Gregory Lepsky from Point Pleasant pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He was sentenced March 1 in a federal court in Trenton. When released, he will be subject to lifetime supervision.
Lepsky admitted he planned to detonate a bomb in a pressure cooker (which he had already purchased) and accessed bomb-making directions online through jihadi sites.
When arrested in 2017, Lepsky was a recent convert to Islam. He was originally investigated by authorities after he tried to stab his family’s dog to death. Both Lepsky – who now goes by the name of Allah Abdel Rochman –and the dog were wounded. While paramedics treated him, he told them he was planning to kill his mother.
While in a hospital, Lepsky ranted during questioning that he had pledged his allegiance to Allah and intended to fight for the Islamic State. He also said he planned to kill the family dog (since it as considered it “dirty” according to Islam), kill his mother and detonate a pressure-cooker bomb in a crowded area of New York City.
A digital trail led police to him and his connection to ISIS.
A 23-year old from California was sentenced to 15 years and eight months for setting up social media accounts to support the Islamic State and telling an undercover FBI agent he wanted to attack bars and nightclubs in the Bay Area.
Amer Alhaggagi, 23, met with undercover agents on “numerous occasions to plan a potential terrorist attack.” He also spent significant amounts of time in Yemen (where his family was from). His potential targets included a bomb outside a gay nightclub and placing bombs in backpacks on streets to kill first responders to his attacks.
He posted numerous threats online, vowing to “redefine terror” and saying “the whole Bay Area [gonna] be in flames.”
After his arrest in 2017, his attorney argued Alhaggagi was a “young and naive” man who was simply unaware he was getting involved with terrorism.
“Amer is not anti-American and does not support ISIS or any other terrorist organization,” the lawyer said in a statement. “He is completely nonviolent, and he took no actions to harm anyone. The evidence we have suggests these charges are based on internet chat conversations that he had with a number of unknown people…it appears he allowed himself to be drawn into conversations that he should have been far more suspicious of.”
During the trial, a second lawyer portrayed him as a former “class clown,” saying he was just an out-of-work, pot-smoking internet “troll” trying to provoke and annoy people with violent, anti-American claims.
However, Alhaggagi ended up pleading guilty of attempting to provide services and personnel to ISIS, possessing an identity-theft device, unauthorized identity theft and aggravated identity theft. Alhaggagi will be subject to 10 years of supervision when released.
Federal probation officials recommended he receive only a four-year prison sentence. A letter signed by 150 members of Oakland’s Yemeni community pleading with the judge for leniency and said the community was creating an education program for children regarding online attempts at radicalization.
The feds nabbed a man from Milwaulkee who wanted to join ISIS. Jason Ludke, 38, communicated online with an undercover FBI agent and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. He also recorded a video of himself pledging his allegiance.
He, along with Yosvany Padilla-Conde, 32, planned to travel to Mexico and then Syria to join the terror organization. Both men were arrested in near San Angelo, Texas before they crossed into Mexico. Both were charged in 2016 with attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization.
In 2002, Ludke was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child and making death threats against a federal judge. At the time, he was sentenced to four years in prison. When arrested in Texas, Ludke was on probation. Before leaving Wisconsin, he also cut his ankle tracking device.
Prosecutors called Ludke “a true danger” and recommended he be put away for 20 years followed by a lifetime of supervised release. However, Ludke’s lawyers argued he was a “lost soul” who couldn’t express himself well and recommended five years.
In the end, the judge sentenced Ludke to seven years in a federal prison.
Padilla-Conde’s trial is scheduled for the end of June.