Last Friday, a federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced Joseph Hassan Farrokh, a 29-year-old man from Woodbridge, Virginia, to 102 months in prison for attempting to provide material support to ISIL.
Farrokh had previously pled guilty to an information after waiving his right to prosecution by indictment. According to the information, Farrokh attempted board a plane at Richmond International Airport bound for Jordan—the first leg of his planned trip to Syria. His friend, Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan drove him to the airport and was later also indicted by the FBI for his support of Farrokh. While the complaint against Elhassan indicates that he was aware of Farrokh’s plan to join ISIL, the statement of facts accompanying Farrokh’s plea agreement indicates Elhassan not only dropped Farrokh off at the airport, but also planned to join him in Syria at a later date.
Farrokh and Elhassan join the recent slew of young men from the northern Virginia and Washington DC area indicted on charges of providing material support to ISIL. In early July, 26-year-old Bailor Jalloh was arrested in Sterling, Virginia—about 45 minutes from Woodbridge. Just a few months prior to that arrest, Alexandria, Virginia native Mohamed Jamal Khweis, was picked up by Kurdish forces after successfully travelling overseas to join ISIL.
Like many other subjects of FBI counterterrorism investigations, both Elhassan and Farrokh were operationally cautious when communicating with other like-minded radicals online. They purchased prepaid phones and downloaded encrypted mobile messaging apps in order to communicate with ISIL members overseas and, like Bailor Jalloh, they were in communication with bonafide ISIL members as well as FBI sources. But these individuals also went further than most subjects, taking additional measures to avoid law enforcement detection. Farrokh even trimmed his beard to look more American and booked a flight out of Richmond International Airport believing that the airport had less TSA security than the larger DC-area airports.
Farrokh also joined the ranks of many subjects arrested at the point at which they attempt to travel—Nader Elhuzayel was arrested at the airport trying to board a plane, and Akram Musleh was apprehended while attempting to get on a Greyhound bus.
Farrokh’s sentence was well below the government’s request for 136 months, although his defense team had recommended the court impose a sentence of 63 months, arguing he was unlikely to reoffend. Farrokh’s sentence is also shorter than those of his peers, including Nicholas Teausant, who was recently sentenced to 144 months in prison on the similar charges.