SEATTLE – A 20-year-old California man has been arrested near the Canadian border in Washington state and charged with attempting to travel to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremists, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Nicholas Teausant, of Acampo, Calif., an unincorporated area near Lodi, was taken off a northbound Amtrak bus just short of the border overnight. A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Sacramento described him as a student at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton and a member of the National Guard who is being discharged for failing to meet basic academic requirements.
Beginning last spring, Teausant began expressing on his online photography account a desire to see America's downfall, saying "I would love to join Allah's army but I don't even know how to start," the complaint said. Later in the year, he took to another online forum to say he hoped to fight in Syria, it said.
It wasn't immediately clear if Teausant had a lawyer. He was charged with a single count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and was due to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday afternoon.
The complaint said he had been planning since last October to support the efforts of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has been fighting in Syria's three-year-old civil war and is designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. Investigators said he discussed his scheme at length with a person who turned out to be a paid FBI informant, repeatedly affirming that he was serious about it.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a breakaway organization from Al Qaeda that is considered one of the most brutal groups fighting in Syria's civil war, made up largely of non-Syrian Islamic militants. It has seized several areas in Syria as it fights the government of President Bashar Assad.
Among Teausant's plans was to appear in videos for the group, without covering his face — to be "the one white devil that leaves their face wide open to the camera," he was quoted as saying in the complaint.
The informant put Teausant in contact with a "mentor" — in reality, an undercover federal agent — who could purportedly approve his efforts to join the extremists. Early this month, the "mentor" blessed Teausant's travels, and he boarded a train for Seattle Sunday night, the complaint said.
When the bus arrived in Blaine, just south of Vancouver, British Columbia, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped it and questioned Teausant about where he was headed. He responded that he was traveling to Vancouver and was arrested, the complaint said.
The complaint said Teausant enlisted in the National Guard in April 2012, but never underwent basic training because he didn't meet academic requirements.
The maximum penalty for attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.