A man accused of killing four people in two states is believed to have ties to a disrupted terrorist cell, a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil, and federal investigations going back more than a decade, a Fox News investigation has revealed.
Details of Ali Muhammad Brown’s life in crime and connections to radical Islam prior to the killings of a college student in New Jersey and three other men in Washington state since April 2014 is under renewed scrutiny. After his arrest in July, Brown, 29, told detectives from both states that he “was engaged in jihad” and referred to the specific murder of one victim, Brendan Tevlin, as a “just kill.”
Tevlin, 19, was murdered in West Orange, N.J., on June 25 while sitting in his car at a traffic light. He was shot eight times. Besides Brown, two other men have been arrested in Tevlin’s murder -- Jeremy Villagran and Eric Williams.
Seattle authorities say ballistics link the same 9-mm. handgun that Brown used to kill Tevlin in New Jersey to three other homicide investigations in Washington state. On June 1, 23-year-old Dwone Anderson-Young and 27-year-old Ahmed Said were killed “execution style” as they sat inside a car in Seattle, Wash.
The same weapon was used to gun down 30-year-old Leroy Henderson on April 27 as he walked the streets of Skyway, Wash., authorities say.
Two former FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, revealed for the first time on a Fox News special, “Greta Investigates: The Lone Wolves of Terror,” that they believe Ali Muhammad Brown may have traveled to one of the first terrorist training camps on U.S. soil when he was a teenager.
Former FBI agents David Rubincam and David Gomez were interviewed by Fox News in Seattle. David Gomez told Fox, “I believe Ali Muhammad Brown at some point traveled to Bly, Ore., prior to his arrest for financial institution fraud.”
The JTTF executed 19 search and arrest warrants in November 2004 after a 30-month investigation, which became known as the “Ranier Valley Roundup.” No one, including Brown, was charged with terrorism.
Gomez recalled the case: “The objective is to make money, so they were involved in trying to raise money for themselves, but they were also raising money for a jihadist movement in Seattle. There is a quote in the indictment that says, ‘you can’t go to war broke’. ”
The JTTF investigation centered around “Crescent Cuts,” a small barber shop frequented by Brown. The shop was owned by Ruben Shumpert, a convicted drug dealer familiar to Gomez and other members of law enforcement.
“Ruben Shumpert was a prison convert to Islam,” noted Gomez. “He learned to cut hair in prison. Ruben would not only cut hair, but was attempting to indoctrinate a lot of the youth into radical forms of Islam by showing them videos about the 9/11 hijackers and Al Qaeda.”
Gomez added, “in 2004 with Ali Muhammad Brown, what we were looking at was the raising of funds for overseas material support of terrorism. He [Brown] was convicted of fraudulently producing checks, depositing them into accounts and spending the money basically.”
Brown was sentenced to two years in prison, but only served 84 days. He would lead a life of depraved crime and violence. Washington state court records from 2012 obtained by Fox News show Brown was charged with child rape before pleading guilty to three lesser counts of “communication with a minor for immoral purposes.“
Ruben Shumpert went on to fight alongside terrorists.
Just prior to his sentencing in 2006, Shumpert wrote a 12-page letter to U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman. In it, he claimed he was a changed man because of Islam and begged for leniency. He also criticized news organizations, including Fox News.
However, Shumpert, who was never asked to surrender his U.S. passport, never showed up for his sentencing. Shumpert fled to Somalia to fight for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab. From there, Shumpert made taunting calls to the FBI team that had investigated him.
In 2008, reports of his death in a missile attack were reported by the SITE intelligence group. SITE noted that Shumpert had been declared a “martyr” in an online jihadi magazine.
It is clear that prior to the attacks of 9/11, the Pacific Northwest had become a lure to create a “mujahadeen ” and Al Qaeda-related training camp.
As early as 1999, “Dog Cry Ranch” near Bly, Ore., was envisioned as a jihadist training camp by London’s notorious radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. The one-eyed, handless al-Masri, 56, now faces sentencing before the U.S. Attorney’s Southern District of New York following his conviction in May 2014 on 11 federal terrorism charges. These convictions include some related to the plans for the Oregon ranch.
Testifying this spring at al-Masri’s trial was James Ujaama, one of the cleric’s most devoted followers. Ujaama was familiar to the Crescent Cuts barber shop in Seattle and had attended Ingraham High School.
Now in his late 40s, Ujaama testified in April that he wrote and sent a fax to al-Masri in 1999 stating, “the land we spoke of is about 160 acres and looks just like Afghanistan.”
Former FBI agent and Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force member David Rubincam recalled Ujaama to Fox News.
“James Ujaama's inspiration came not from videos of Abu hamza al-Masri; he actually went to the Finsbury mosque and was tutored by him in the ways of violent jihad and then attempted to bring that back… that original group of converts, some of whom stayed on and worked with Shumpert in the Crescent Cuts case. They tried to set up a mujahedeen… training camp here on U.S. soil.”
Fox News also reviewed videos obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism showing Ujaama present with al-Masri at the London mosque in 2000.
In 2003, it was announced by then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Attorney General Michael Chertoff that James Ujaama pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide goods and services to the Taliban. In exchange for a two-year prison sentence, Ujaama was “cooperating with the government in ongoing terrorism investigations.”
However, after completing his sentence in 2005, Ujaama fled the U.S. on a fake Mexican passport. He was arrested outside a mosque in Belize in December 2005 and returned to the United States.
Now, still facing decades in prison with terrorism charges reinstated under seal, Ujaama remains a key government witness in ongoing core Al Qaeda-related terrorism trials.
And there was another visitor to the barber shop that interested members of the JTTF. David Rubincam investigated Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, then the imam of the Abu Bakr Mosque. At the time, the mosque was located 500 feet away from “Crescent Cuts.”
“I had a piece of that investigation that involved an imam at the Abu Bakr Mosque,” Rubincam explained. “A point of overlap between the investigations is the fact that the converts, like Rubin Shumpert and others, would attend Abu-Bakr Mosque. And Sheikh Ibrahim, the imam, was also known. We surveilled him actually going over to Crescent Cuts.”
David Rubincam Remains certain about the radical motivation of the then-imam from the Abu Bakr Mosque -- Sheikh Ibrahim.
"He’s an extremist religious zealot of the worst kind…he went to the University of al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia. He was educated as an Islamic religious scholar.”
Rubincam said the imam was a member of the precursor to the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, Al-Shabaab. “He was over here to raise money through the Hawala system of -- of money transfer to fund them overseas and to recruit people to their cause to actually go back to Somalia to take up arms or go into Ethiopia and take up arms.”
The imam was finally arrested in Seattle in late 2005 after returning from a trip to Texas, says Rubincam.
“As soon as we saw who he was meeting with in Dallas, we thought, OK, you know what, enough. This, you know, he's meeting with other people that are kind of in the same line of work as him.”
Three months after Shumpert disappeared in 2006 to fight alongside terrorists in Somalia, Sheikh Ibrahim (whose real name is Mohamad Dheere) was deported because, according to the immigration court, the sheikh had no legal basis to remain in the U.S. A public affairs spokesman for the Seattle office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to Fox News that the sheikh was deported to Kenya, his country of birth, not Somalia . Federal investigators say the sheikh lied in documents he signed in 2000 to obtain legal asylum in the United States.
“I'm glad that we dealt with it in immigration court,” Rubincam continued. “The best thing is to get him off our soil and get him out of here and never let him come back…I am 100 percent certain, 100 -- a national security threat to the United States of America or to any country in which he resides.
Ali Muhammad Brown, who hung out at the barber shop, is facing four murder charges in two states as police investigate his life thoroughly. A Fox News request for an interview with Brown and his attorney were declined. Brown is currently held in New Jersey’s Essex County jail.
Frank Cilluffo, the director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University told Fox News, “the investigation is still playing out…but in this case I do think he would fit in the category of lone wolf, because he did affiliate with others who were traveling to Somalia and, in this case, Al-Shabaab.”
Christina Diaz Hall, Angela Tarrant, Steve Tierney and Cyd Upson contributed additional reporting to this story.