A Virginia man pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to aid a foreign terrorism organization. Lionel Williams (Harun Ash-Shababi) of Suffolk VA admitted to seeking to provide support to the Islamic State. Williams made the plea during a court hearing on Wednesday morning. He was arrested by FBI agents at his home in December 2016. Court documents show how Williams sent money to ISIS. He also once dressed entirely in black, including a headscarf, and purchased a $200 prepaid Visa gift card at a Walgreens pharmacy in Suffolk. The 27-year-old believed the money was going to help ISIS in its deadly terrorist acts.
Williams detected the FBI surveillance. He told his girlfriend: “Anyway I want them to know that if I catch them scopin’ my house out again, I’m gonna cut his head off; just so they know.” In a Statement of Facts he signed, Williams acknowledged that the conversations were true.
Williams reiterated after his arrest that he continues to stand on the side of ISIS, which he believes is engaged in a “holy war.” Corroboration was provided by a woman in Brazil, with whom Williams had an online relationship. She told the FBI that while she did not know the specifics of Williams’ plans, she said that Williams told her he would “go at police with a gun and that he would die as a martyr in the process.” The woman said that Williams hoped to create an incident serious enough to merit a military response.
Both the prosecution and defense agreed agreed to a 20-year sentence as part of a plea agreement, but the judge said she wants to review the case before accepting it.
From the DOJ press release:
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Lionel Williams, 27, attempted to send money to a person he believed was an ISIS financier on two occasions, believing the money would be used to kill. In court documents,
Williams admitted his interest in ISIS began in 2014. On Dec. 3, 2015, the day after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, he bought an AK-47 assault rifle. In March 2016, he publicly declared his support for ISIS on social media, described his hope that ISIS would take over the United States, and stated he would decapitate any law enforcement agents he caught surveilling him.
After donating money to an individual he believed to be an ISIS financier – but was actually a persona adopted by an FBI employee – Williams was told his donation had helped purchase a rocket-propelled grenade. He responded with an Arabic phrase meaning, “Praise be to Allah, and Allah is the Greatest.”
Later in 2016, Williams began discussing plans for a martyrdom operation with a woman living outside the United States, asked an FBI confidential source to send him specific types of AK-47 ammunition, and told an FBI employee that his plan was for a “local” operation. Williams was arrested and charged shortly thereafter. After his arrest, he told agents he supported ISIS and believed he was part of a “holy war.”
As part of the plea agreement, Williams agreed that he will receive the statutory maximum of 20 years in prison when sentenced on December 20.