Crime

NY Pizza Shop Owner Pleads Guilty To Recruiting ISIS Fighters

| by Nik Bonopartis
Mufid Elfgeeh.Mufid Elfgeeh.

Mufid Elfgeeh, owner of a New York pizza shop, served up steaming slices -- as well as passports, fake birth certificates, laptops and cash for would-be ISIS recruits heading to Syria.

The Yemen-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, who seemed to be living the American dream by owning his own business in Rochester, pleaded guilty on Dec. 17 to providing material support and trying to recruit fighters for ISIS, federal prosecutors said, according to ABC News.

When he returns to federal court for a March 17 sentencing hearing, Elfgeeh is expected to receive a 22-year prison sentence, Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Elfgeeh was brought to the attention of federal investigators in 2013 when he tried reaching out to ISIS members and supporters online. Federal agents tracked him, then picked him up in May 2014 after he purchased a pair of handguns and silencers, weapons the Rochester man planned to use to kill American soldiers returning from deployment overseas, the feds said.

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Federal authorities said a tip from a concerned citizen initially alerted them to the 31-year-old Rochester man's plans

"As it did in this case, the public should continue to report to law enforcement any suspicious individuals or activities and thereby hasten the demise of these killers," U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. told the Democrat and Chronicle.

Elfgeeh was active online, and believed he'd be assured a place in paradise for recruiting fighters and sending them into battle. Elfgeeh also used Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to solicit donations from other radicalized people who wanted to help support ISIS.

"Elfgeeh wanted to be a source of support for violent jihad and serve as a facilitator for violent jihadists who wanted to travel overseas and fight," the plea agreement said. "In Elfgeeh's own postings and messages on social media and statements ... Elfgeeh stated that a person who helps or sponsors a fighter to engage in violent jihad obtains the same religious rewards from Allah [God] as the fighter himself."

The Rochester man didn't know it, but two of his local "recruits" were FBI agents posing as jihadis. Elfgeeh bought a laptop and two cameras for the "recruits," ABC News said, and helped one of them obtain a birth certificate and expedited passport so he could travel to Syria. A third recruit -- who may have been genuine -- received a $600 wire transfer from the Rochester pizza owner so he could travel from Yemen to the war front in Syria, the FBI said.

“Thanks to today’s convictions, one of the first [ISIS] recruiters ever captured in this country stands convicted of terrorism-related charges,” Hochul said. “While our case against this defendant will conclude with a very long jail sentence, our ongoing efforts to defeat [ISIS] and other terrorist groups will continue until all are brought to justice."

Sources: Democrat and Chronicle (2), ABC News / Photo credit: Democrat and Chronicle