Nader Elhuzayel

Nader Elhuzayel is a California resident and U.S. citizen who was convicted in June 2016 on terrorism-related and bank fraud charges. Elhuzayel had conspired with Muhanad Badawi to join ISIS abroad.“United States of America v. Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi,” U.S. District Court Central District of California, May 22, 2015, http://www.justice.gov/file/441231/download;
Richard Winton, “Two O.C. men convicted of conspiring to fight with the Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-islamic-state-convicted-20160621-snap-story.html.

According to federal prosecutors, Elhuzayel and Badawi had used Twitter and Facebook to discuss plans to join ISIS. Elhuzayel was arrested in May 2015 at Los Angeles International Airport while apparently preparing to board a flight to Turkey.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. To finance the flight, Elhuzayel had deposited stolen checks into personal checking accounts in three different banks, according to prosecutors. He then withdrew the money at bank offices and ATMs in and around Orange County, California.Richard Winton, “Two O.C. men convicted of conspiring to fight with the Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-islamic-state-convicted-20160621-snap-story.html. Elhuzayel’s co-conspirator Muhanad Badawi had purchased Elhuzayel’s ticket. He was arrested the same day at a gas station in Anaheim, California.

Elhuzayel’s parents are Palestinian immigrants who reportedly believed their son was traveling to the West Bank to visit family after a layover in Turkey.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. In an interview with the FBI, Elhuzayel admitted that he intended to cross into ISIS-held territory once inside Turkey.“Two California Men Arrested on Charges of Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIL,” U.S. Department of Justice, May 22, 2015, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/two-california-men-arrested-charges-conspiring-provide-material-support-isil. Speaking to the Orange County Register, Elhuzayel’s father, Salem, called his son’s Tweets “nonsensical talk” and said that somebody “must be speaking” on his son’s behalf.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. Elhuzayel’s mother, Falak, told California media that her son bought a one-way ticket because he didn’t know how long he would stay in the West Bank.Joel Rubin and Joseph Serna, “O.C. men plead not guilty to plotting to fight for Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-men-islamic-state-20150608-story.html. The Elhuzayel family lives in a motel in Anaheim, California, having been evicted from their home in 2013 after they declared bankruptcy.Joel Rubin and Joseph Serna, “O.C. men plead not guilty to plotting to fight for Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-men-islamic-state-20150608-story.html;
Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html.

Elhuzayel and Badawi reportedly met in 2012 while Elhuzayel attended general education classes at Cypress College.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. According to press reports, Elhuzayel hoped to earn a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, and worked as an occasional landscaper. He had completed a medical billing program at American Career College.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. The two began attending the West Coast Islamic Society in Anaheim, California, in late 2014. According to the mosque’s leadership, Elhuzayel and Badawi did not often associate with other members.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. Elhuzayel’s mother, Falak, described Elhuzayel as “Muslim, but not very religious.”Joel Rubin and Joseph Serna, “O.C. men plead not guilty to plotting to fight for Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-men-islamic-state-20150608-story.html.

Elhuzayel used the ISIS flag as his profile picture on Facebook, where he had posted about his desire to join the supposed fight against non-Muslims.Richard Winton, “Two O.C. men convicted of conspiring to fight with the Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-islamic-state-convicted-20160621-snap-story.html. Elhuzayel also reportedly used the online dating website OKCupid and began a relationship with a woman in the Palestinian territories who also supported ISIS.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. According to the criminal complaint filed against him, Elhuzayel and the woman in question talked daily and had made plans to marry. “United States of America v. Nader Elhuzayel and MuhanadBadawi,” U.S. District Court Central District of California, May 22, 2015, http://www.justice.gov/file/441231/download.

Elhuzayel pled not guilty to charges leveled against him, despite waiving his Miranda rights upon arrest and admitting his plan to join ISIS in interviews with the FBI.Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke, and Theresa Walker, “2 Anaheim men suspected of supporting ISIS appear in court, face 15 years in prison if convicted,” Orange County Register, May 22, 2015, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/force-662727-task-terrorism.html. A federal jury in California convicted Elhuzayel and Badawi of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS on June 21, 2016. Elhuzayel was also convicted of 26 counts of bank fraud.Richard Winton, “Two O.C. men convicted of conspiring to fight with the Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-islamic-state-convicted-20160621-snap-story.html.

Elhuzayel faces up to 15 years in prison for the material support charge and up to 30 years for each count of bank fraud.Richard Winton, “Two O.C. men convicted of conspiring to fight with the Islamic State,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-oc-islamic-state-convicted-20160621-snap-story.html.

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