FBI: Maryland Terror Suspect Claims He Was Scamming ISIS

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A Maryland man charged with terror-related crimes told FBI agents before his arrest that not only should he not be in trouble, but he should be applauded and given a job for running what he claimed was a “scam” on ISIS.

Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, was arrested Friday for purportedly attempting to provide material support to ISIS, lying to federal agents and "obstruction of agency proceedings." But that’s not how Elshinawy saw it during an earlier interview with federal agents, according to an FBI affidavit released today.

“During the interview, which was recorded, Elshinawy sought to portray himself as someone who was simply trying to scam some money from ISIL [ISIS] members,” the affidavit says, after noting that Elshinawy received more than $8,000 from an individual in Egypt believed to be connected to the terror group. “He touted his success at having taken ISIL’s money and felt that his efforts should be applauded. He thought he should be offered a job to work with the FBI to identify ISIL’s money network.”

Elshinawy said that while he understood the money he received from ISIS was to be used in some type of domestic terrorist attack, he claimed that he actually only used the funds to pay off bills and buy furniture.

But the FBI didn’t buy it and described Elshinawy’s account as a “detailed cover story [used] in order to conceal the extent and true nature of the transactions he had with individuals he understood to be ISIL members and his true relationship with those individuals.”

“During his meetings with the FBI, Elshinawy made repeated false statements regarding the money transfers from ISIL; repeatedly insisted that he was telling the truth when, in fact, he was not revealing the true nature and extent of his contacts with ISIL operatives; and finally, appeared overeager to ingratiate himself with the FBI and be ‘a part of the team,’” the FBI affidavit says.

Federal agents said they had intercepted Elshinawy’s communications with supposed ISIS members and with his brother abroad, and the agents said that Elshinawy’s own words undid his elaborate tale.

The FBI said that Elshinawy pledged his allegiance to ISIS through social media in February and asked that a childhood friend of his, who is described as a member of ISIS, to “deliver his message of loyalty.” He also declared his intention to commit violent jihad and told his brother that he planned to eventually take his family to Iraq or Syria, the FBI says. Elshinawy once dreamed of shooting up a church, the FBI said, citing his purported communications.

As for the money, the FBI said Elshinawy did spend some of it on personal items, but he also bought communications equipment including a new laptop and phones that he used to communicate with supposed ISIS-linked individuals. A portion of the money remains unaccounted for, investigators said.

“The affidavit alleges that Mr. Elshinawy initially told the FBI that he was defrauding the terrorists, but further investigation showed that Mr. Elshinawy was supporting the terrorists and misleading the FBI,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.

The Department of Justice said that Elshinawy will make his first court appearance today.