A California man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to join the Islamic State and lying on a passport application, federal officials said.
Adam Dandach, 22, was arrested on July 3, 2014 at John Wayne Airport, where he was planning to board a flight to Turkey en route to Syria to join the terrorist group, the Los Angeles Times reported.
FBI agents confiscated Dandach's cell phone, which they said was loaded with songs praising ISIS, maps of ISIS-controlled territory and Twitter updates from the group's social media accounts.
Dandach also posted online under the Twitter handle @Al_Fadi1414, where he engaged in conversations with Islamic activists and used a photo of the U.S. covered by the ISIS flag as his profile image, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
Dandach was radicalized online, according to federal agents.
The U.S. "faces significant threat from terrorists' acts planned or committed by homegrown violent extremists like [the] defendant who become radicalized online and seek to engage in terror and support groups like ISIL," federal prosecutors wrote in court filings, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Dandach, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to trying to provide material support to ISIS and lying on his passport application, was one of an increasing number of young people who are "vulnerable to recruitment from these organizations," U.S. attorney Eileen M. Decker said.
“This type of [person], when they are traveling, they sometimes make up reasons to head out of town," Decker said. "They say they’re going to get married, going on a family trip or going overseas to conduct charitable activities."
Those were the excuses offered up by Dandach's attorney, who called his client "naive" and said he only "wanted to help widows and orphans" in Syria, according to a 2015 report by The Orange County Register.
“He’s just a kid," attorney Pal Lengyel-Leahu said at the time. "He’s in way over his head. He’s actually a decent person.”
Before entering his guilty plea later in 2015, Dandach remained defiant, writing "poems" from his federal prison cell praising the Islamic State and terrorism.
In one of those writings, Dandach allegedly praised the massacre at the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The January 7, 2015 attack claimed the lives of 11 people and resulted in injuries to 11 others.
“Je suie Al-Qaeda," Dandach wrote in his poem, playing on the expressions of solidarity many offered in the wake of the shooting. "Je suis Charlie," meaning "I am Charlie," was used by mourners and social media sympathizers to offer solidarity and support after the shooting.
But during his July 25 sentencing, Dandach was apologetic, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Pardon me for my poor judgment," he said. "I believe it should be understood that I am just a hollow shell of what I used to be."