A Maryland man has been accused of receiving almost $9,000 to finance a terrorist attack in the United States, the FBI said Monday in a criminal complaint.
Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, of Edgewood, Md., was arrested Friday and charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, obstruction of an investigation and making false statements.
“According to the allegations in the complaint, Mohamed Elshinawy received money he believed was provided by ISIL in order to conduct an attack on U.S. soil,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a statement.
A criminal complaint filed by the FBI said Elshinawy received about $8,700 for “nefarious purposes” from people overseas he believed were connected to ISIS. The money came through Western Union and PayPal accounts, the complaint said.
The criminal complaint said authorities became aware last June that someone in Egypt had sent $1,000 to Elshinawy.
The FBI had a “noncustodial interview” with Elshinawy on July 17. He first said his mother in Egypt sent the money, but upon being shown Western Union records admitted a childhood friend in Egypt connected him to an “unidentified ISIL operative” who sent the money, the FBI said. (ISIL is another way of referring to ISIS.)
He first said he’d received a total of $4,000, knowing it was intended to finance terrorist activities, but that he never planned to carry out an attack, the complaint said. In an interview a few days later, he suddenly remembered receiving another $1,200, the complaint said.
“Elshinawy sought to portray himself as someone who was simply trying to scam some money from ISIL members,” the complaint said.
He spent some money on a laptop, several pay-as-you-go phones and personal expenses, the complaint says. The complaint does not mention spending money on any weapons.
The FBI traced his social media communications and discovered he pledged allegiance to ISIS on Feb. 17, telling a childhood friend that he was “a soldier of the state but was temporarily away,” according to the complaint.
He told his brother, who was in the Middle East, on April 27 about his pledge, and said he had received money from ISIS and expected to receive more, the complaint said.
After talking with the FBI, Elshinawy tried to conceal past communications with his contacts in Egypt, the complaint said.
“This case demonstrates how terrorists exploit modern technology to inculcate sympathizers and build hidden networks,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
The FBI said Elshinawy could be sentenced to 15 years on the charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and eight years each on the other two charges.