UPDATE: A 21-year-old Fort Lee man who formerly sang in an alternative rock band from Englewood was charged by the federal government with supporting foreign terrorism in Iraq.
Federal agents arrested Samuel Rahamin Topaz at his home yesterday on a single charge of conspiring with others to provide “services and personnel to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” also known as ISIS, federal authorities announced this afternoon after a U.S. District judge in Newark ordered him held without bail.
They found proof of his desire to travel to Syria to join the foreign terrorist organization with a Jordanian national living in Rutherford and another co-conspirator in Queens, federal authorities charged.
“Fortunately, this threat did not materialize due to the indefatigable efforts of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel of the FBI’s Newark Division said.
The State Department uses ISIL to refer to the group — versus ISIS, which is used by most media outlets — which a year ago took over Mosul and large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq despite the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve’s attempts to defeat it.
“Providing fighters and resources to a terrorist organization like ISIL is a threat to our country and its citizens,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said this afternoon.
An FBI complaint on file in Newark says that Topaz — a former supermarket and Starbucks employee who grew up in West New York — discussed the Jordanian national’s plan to travel overseas to join ISIL, then received a message from him last month “stating that he would be leaving in a few days.”
The Rutherford man asked, “[d]id you do what i [sic] advised you to do[?],” the complaint says.
Topaz responded, “I’m saving my money for it bro trust me I got it,” it says.
On May 4, the complaint says, “Topaz stated that he had his passport but needed cash to purchase his ticket.”
The Queens suspect, in turn, replied, “My trip is looking months away[.] if u can take a loan out for 5k or even 2.5k then ur [sic] good, they take US dollars in dawla so u can eat and buy stuff, and they provide u with housing when u reach the land of Islam,” it says.
Topaz and the suspect then “discussed that they would be reuniting with [the Rutherford man] in Turkey before going to the dawla,” the FBI alleges.
The Queens suspect said the Rutherford man would go first and “then they wouldould join him soon thereafter,” it says.
On May 21, Topaz told a third person — identified only as a New Jersey resident — that he and the two others needed to “lay low” and “refrain from taking action in furtherance of the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL that might be detected by law enforcement,” the FBI complaint says.
Topaz also said that they needed to discuss “hijra” in person and later told federal agents that the group used the term (often spelled “hijrah”) to refer to traveling overseas to join ISIL, it says.
The unidentified New Jersey resident tipped off authorities out of concern that the other two were “preying” on Topaz’s “insecurities and pain.”
The person tried persuading Topaz to attend a community college, but he said he was promised $7,000 a week and four wives, the FBI complaint says.
After the Queens man was arrested by the FBI on Saturday, Topaz “wrote to an unidentified individual that [he] had not been answering his phone.,” it says.
“We gotta leave ASAP,” he added, the complaint says.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for a term of up to 15 years for a conviction of supporting foreign terrorism.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI and the JTTF with the investigation leading to Topaz’s arrest.
Prosecuting him for the government are Assistant U.S. Attorneys L. Judson Welle, Dennis C. Carletta, and Francisco J. Navarro of Fishman’s National Security Unit in Newark, with assistance from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
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