MIAMI – A Kenyan man pleaded guilty in the U.S. on Thursday to terrorism support charges in a case that involved Internet chat room and other online communications with undercover FBI operatives.
Mohamed Said pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. A factual statement signed by Said identifies those groups as al-Shabaab in Africa and extremist organizations operating in Syria, including al-Qaida.
Said, 27, faces a maximum 15-year prison term when he is sentenced Aug. 14 by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. A co-defendant, Gufran Mohammed, is already serving that same 15-year sentence after pleading guilty last year.
The case evolved from FBI monitoring of Internet chat rooms frequented by Muslim extremists, according to court documents. FBI undercover employees posed as online terrorism recruiters and fundraisers in communications with both Mohammed and Said, who were both overseas.
Said admitted in the factual statement that in 2011 he received more than $11,600 in wire transfers from Mohammed for al-Shabaab and that he had told Mohammed later, "I sent it and it was distributed among the mujahedeen."
"I am sending more this week (Allah willing)," Mohammed wrote back.
Said's defense had centered on claims that prosecutors could not prove he was the person typing on a computer in Africa when the incriminating communications were sent. But according to authorities, Said admitted his involvement in terrorism in conversations with inmates at a Miami detention center.
Said and Mohammed were arrested in August 2013 in Saudi Arabia, where Mohammed was based at the time. According to the statement, Said thought he was traveling there from Africa to pick up more money for the terrorist organizations.
Before his arrest, Said admitted discussing travel routes, training and possible terrorist operations with an FBI confidential source posing as an al-Shabaab recruit. In such conversations, the recruits were called "tomatoes" or "dogs," according to the statement.
Mohammed is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from India who has a master's degree in computer science from California State University in Los Angeles. He had been living in Saudi Arabia since 2011. Said was living in Mombasa, Kenya, and had never been to the U.S. before his arrest.
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