RICHMOND, Va. – A Virginia woman faces a federal charge after being accused of promoting the Islamic State in social media and offering to help an undercover agent get a friend into Syria to join the extremist group.
Heather Elizabeth Coffman of Henrico County made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday and was ordered held until a Wednesday afternoon detention hearing, court documents show. She is charged with making a materially false statement about an offense involving terrorism.
According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Coffman promoted the organization known as ISIS on several Facebook accounts she maintained under various names. Those posts prompted a sting by the agent, who posed as an Islamic State backer.
The agent wrote in the affidavit that Coffman talked about making arrangements for a man she identified as her husband to train and fight with ISIS in Syria. She said the man, who is not named in court papers, backed out when the couple split up.
Coffman offered to make similar arrangements for the FBI agent and a fictitious friend. The agent told Coffman that his friend wanted to fight with the terrorist group and become a "shaheed," or martyr. The agent said Coffman encouraged him to support the friend's plan and offered to use her contacts to help him achieve his goal.
After several meetings between the agent and Coffman, two other FBI agents interviewed the woman at her workplace. She denied supporting any terrorist groups, the affidavit said.
Coffman's attorney, Mark Schmidt, said in a telephone interview that he had not yet spoken in depth with his client about the allegations.
"As I understand it, this is in connection with Facebook and issues that arose from Facebook," he said. "To the best of my knowledge, Ms. Coffman has never left the country. I don't know if she even left Virginia."
The FBI affidavit says Coffman "is suspected of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham ("ISIS") a foreign terrorist organization."
One of Coffman's Facebook accounts listed her job and education, translated, as "jihad for Allah's sake," the agent wrote. Her accounts also featured photos of the ISIS flag and images of men holding AK-47s.
One Facebook friend asked why she posted such pictures and she replied, "I love ISIS!"
According to the affidavit, she also said she got her sister to like ISIS and "my dad is a little angry because I got her into all this jihad stuff."