Would-be terrorist Mufid A. Elfgeeh is expected to get 22 ½ years in prison when he’s sentenced in federal court on Thursday.
According to a plea agreement reached in December 2015, Elfgeeh, a former shop owner in Rochester, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The maximum sentence for those charges would be 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus supervised release for the rest of his life.
Mark D. Hosken submitted a sentencing statement to U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford listing other federal defendants charged with the same crime.
“Should this Court sentence Mr. Elfgeeh to the agreed term of 270 months, he will receive the longest prison term imposed for an individual who attempted to provide material support to ISIS/ISIL,” Hosken wrote.
In a court filing, federal prosecutors called the 22 ½-year sentence “fair and just.”
“Such a severe sentence – the equivalent of more than two decades in prison – adequately accounts for the nature and circumstances of the offenses of conviction, the history and characteristics,” assistant U.S. Attorney Brett A. Harvey wrote in a 14-page sentencing memorandum.
The memo also pointed out that Elfgeeh indicated a changed attitude about ISIL in meetings with government officials.
“It is important to note that, during the pendency of this prosecution, the defendant met with the FBI and prosecutors. In the meeting, the defendant gave a full accounting of his criminal activities, including his involvement in recruiting the individuals for ISIL,” Harvey wrote in the memo.
“Notably, the defendant renounced ISIL and its methods during the meeting,” he wrote in the memo.
In a footnote Harvey added: “The (pre-sentence report) shows that the defendant also renounced ISIL, and confirmed that he no longer supports ISIL, in his statements to the Probation Office.”
If Wolford does not accept the plea agreement, Elfgeeh can withdraw his plea.
Although the plea agreement calls for a prison sentence of 22 ½ years, it does not include a specific fine or term of supervised release.
“The government has requested a life term. I requested a five-year term of supervised release,” said Mark D. Hosken, supervisory assistant Federal Public Defender.
In a court filing, Hosken also asked Wolford not to impose any fine on Elfgeeh because he is indigent.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for an interview about this case.
A naturalized citizen of the United States originally from Yemen, Elfgeeh lived at 1193 N. Clinton Ave. where he owned and operated the store, Halal Mojo and Food Mart.
He was indicted in April 2014 on seven charges: three counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; one count of attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States; one count of possession of firearms and silencers in furtherance of a crime of violence; and two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm silencer.
Elfgeeh recruited men to go to Syria to fight with ISIS. He helped them make travel plans, gave them money for tickets and other expenses, arranged for them to make contacts in Syria, and gave one man a laptop computer and a video camera to take to Syria.
He bought guns, ammunition, and silencers and planned to use them to kill American soldiers who had returned from combat in Iraq. He also showed his support for terrorist groups and tried to raise money for terrorists using 23 Facebook accounts and three Twitter accounts.
The investigation relied heavily on informants, such as the men he tried to recruit to fight in Syria and a man who helped him buy the guns and ammo.
As of April 2014, one source was paid about $21,700 by the FBI for information about Elfgeeh and for another investigation. The FBI also helped relatives of the informant get visas to come to the United States.
Another informant had been paid $4,000 for information as of April 2014.
According to the criminal complaint against Elfgeeh, an informant told the FBI that in December 2013 Elfgeeh said: “I’m thinking about just go buy a big automatic gun from off the street or something and a lot of bullets and just put on a vest or whatever and just go around and start shooting.”
In March 2014 Elfgeeh asked an informant to get a price for hand grenades — “the type that one could throw at someone as you are driving a car,” according to the complaint.