A New York state resident was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison for trying to recruit fighters to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), the longest prison term handed out yet to an American convicted of supporting the group.
Mufid Elfgeeh, a 32-year-old pizza shop owner of Rochester, New York, was sentenced in a Western District court on Thursday after the district’s attorney, William Hochul, called Elfgeeh “one of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured”.
Convictions for ISIL-related activity by US citizens have become more frequent in recent months as more than 80 such cases brought by US prosecutors since 2013 work their way through federal courts.
Although Elfgeeh pleaded guilty in December only to trying to recruit two individuals to join ISIL, he was also originally charged with trying to kill US service members and unlawfully possessing firearms and silencers.
From 2013, the FBI paid two informants to help investigate Elfgeeh, according to court records.
The informants recorded conversations in which Elfgeeh talked about wanting to kill members of the US military and Shia Muslims in New York. One of the informants eventually sold Elfgeeh firearms and ammunition.
Elfgeeh tried to send the two individuals to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIL, buying them a laptop computer, a high-definition camera, an expedited passport and other travel documents, according to his plea agreement.
He used Facebook and WhatsApp to activate a network of ISIL sympathisers in Turkey, Syria and Yemen who could facilitate their trip, the plea agreement said.
During the same months, Elfgeeh also helped the alleged commander of a Syrian rebel battalion to contact ISIL’s leadership so that the battalion could join the larger group, prosecutors said.
Honcho said Elfgeeh fell for ISIL’s propaganda.
“They try to create this false narrative that everyone is in favour of them,” Honchul said.
According to Honchul, in court Elfgeeh said: “I used to be one of them and I was wrong. ISIL is a terrible group.”