Mufid Elfgeeh, the local pizza shop owner charged with aiding terrorists, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to trying to recruit people for the Islamic State.
Elfgeeh pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Sentencing is set for St. Patrick’s Day.
The 31-year-old Elfgeeh was born in Yemen and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He operated a convenience store and pizza shop at the time of his arrest in 2014.
Under the plea agreement, Elfgeeh is expected to be sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.
Authorities say he tried to recruit three people to join the Islamic State group to fight in Syria. Two of the people were law enforcement informants.
He was also charged with having silencer-equipped handguns and plotting to kill U.S. soldiers.
“Mufid Elfgeeh pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIL through his various efforts to recruit individuals, raise funds and coordinate logistics for the designated terrorist group,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin. said in a press release announcing the plea. ISIL, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is the term used by the Obama administration for the insurgency in the Syria and neighboring countries.
“ISIL’s horrific violence is waged against men, women and children, as well as against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The National Security Division will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization,” Carlin said.
“Thanks to today’s convictions, one of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured in this country stands convicted of terrorism related charges,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.
According to the plea agreement and other court documents, Elfgeeh used social media to receive and disseminate information about foreign terrorist groups and their activities in Syria and other countries; to declare his support for violent jihad, ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups; to inspire and encourage others to engage in violent jihad and pledge allegiance to ISIL and other foreign terrorist groups; and to seek financial contributions to assist jihadist fighters.
From December 2013 through May 31, 2014, he recruited and tried to send two individuals to Syria to join and fight for ISIL. Both were cooperating with the FBI.
Elfgeeh sent anti-American ISIL propaganda videos to one of them and arranged for an English-speaking ISIL contact to communicate with that person.