An Iraqi-born Palestinian man previously charged with lying to investigators about traveling to Syria was indicted Thursday on the more serious allegation of trying to support a terrorist group.
A federal grand jury in Illinois indicted Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, on the new charge two months after he was arrested in California on accusations of lying about traveling to fight against the Syrian government.
That charge could have brought him up to eight years in prison, but he now faces a maximum 15-year term if convicted of attempting to provide material support to terrorists.
Al-Jayab flew from Chicago to Turkey on Nov. 9, 2013, and then traveled to Syria, federal prosecutors said. Authorities say he joined a group later affiliated with the Islamic State group, though he told investigators he was just visiting his grandmother in Turkey.
Al-Jayab migrated to the United States as a refugee in October 2012, authorities say. He lived in Arizona and Milwaukee until November 2013, when he went back overseas. He moved to Sacramento in January 2014 and registered as a computer science major at a Sacramento community college last fall.
The allegations in the case have not changed, only the charge, said Al-Jayab's attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway of Sacramento. Galloway and California prosecutors say there is no indication Al-Jayab intended harm within the United States.
"The charge stems from the same brief overseas trip more than two years ago," Galloway said in an email. "The thrust of the government's allegation is that Mr. Al-Jayab fought against the Assad regime, which our own government actively opposes, but did so by taking up arms with the wrong people."
A second man charged in the investigation, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, faces up to 25 years in prison on three charges that he tried to provide material support to the Islamic State group.