Fort Lee man charged with plotting to support terror group
NEWARK (AP) — A man was charged Thursday with conspiring with three other men to provide material support to the Islamic State terror group.
Samuel Rahamin Topaz, of Fort Lee, was charged Thursday with conspiring to travel overseas to join the terror group. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
The 21-year-old Topaz was arrested at his home and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Newark on Thursday and was held without bail, the U.S. attorney's office said. Topaz's attorney, Borce Martinoski, said Topaz will plead not guilty.
According to the criminal complaint released Thursday, Topaz told investigators who executed a search warrant on his home Wednesday that he sympathized with the Islamic State group and its activity, that he watched Islamic State videos that depicted beheadings and that he agreed with the three co-conspirators to travel abroad to join the Islamic State.
The complaint alleges Topaz had numerous meetings and exchanged numerous text messages and phone calls with the three, referred to as CC-1, CC-2 and CC-3. The description of CC-2 matches that of 20-year-old Munther Omar Saleh, a New York City college student who was arrested this month and charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The New York man is alleged to have made online postings supporting the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and saying "AQ," believed to refer to Al-Qaeda, "could be getting too moderate." The criminal complaint against Topaz alleges the two men discussed going abroad to join the Islamic State.
The complaint against Saleh alleges he was planning an attack in New York and searched the Internet for information about pressure cooker bombs and city landmarks and tourist attractions.
There was no response to a message left Wednesday with Saleh's attorney.
A second college student arrested in the same investigation as Saleh, 21-year-old Fereed Mumuni, wasn't mentioned in the indictment against Topaz. Mumuni tried to kill an FBI agent with a large kitchen knife in a struggle while agents were executing a search warrant at his Staten Island home, investigators say. He was charged with attempted murder.
Defense attorney Anthony Ricco denied that Mumuni was an Islamic State convert and said he has a clean record.
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