OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A 22-year-old Oakland man, who allegedly met with undercover agents to plan a potential terrorist attack, has been charged with attempting to set-up social media accounts for ISIS, federal prosecutors confirmed Friday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Amer Sinan Alhaggagi — who has been in federal custody since last November — was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury on several counts including attempting to provide social media accounts for the use and benefit of ISIS.
In a detention document filed in December, federal prosecutors told the court that Alhaggagi had spent significant time in Yemen and had allegedly met undercover agents on “numerous occasions to plan a potential terrorist attack.”
In a statement, Alhaggagi’s attorney August Gugelmann denied his client knowingly was involved in terrorism.
“Amer is not anti-American and does not support ISIS or any other terrorist organization,” the statement read. “He is completely nonviolent, and he took no actions to harm anyone.”
He said Alhaggagi was “naïve” and not aware of who the individuals were that he was communicating with in chat rooms.
“The evidence we have suggests these charges are based on internet chat conversations that he had with a number of unknown people,” the statement read. “Amer is a very young and naïve man, and it appears he allowed himself to be drawn into conversations that he should have been far more suspicious of.”
It appears in some of those chatrooms were either undercover government agents or cooperating sources, according to a protective order sealing evidence in the case that was filed in December.
The order read in part that the sealed evidence included “materials describing communications that occurred between the defendant on the one hand and undercover agents and cooperating sources on the other, whose identities remain confidential and non-public.”
In the detention order for Alhaggagi filed on Dec. 20, federal prosecutors told the court that the Oakland man was “both a serious flight risk and a danger to the community.”
According to the document, Alhaggagi “was not currently employed and had spent significant lengths of time in Yemen.”
The government presented evidence to support a no-bail hold including instant messages allegedly sent by Alhaggagi and recordings made of the defendant by undercover agents.
Federal prosecutors feared he would “flee to Mexico and elsewhere.”
According to other court documents, the FBI originally took Alhaggagi into custody last November on identity theft related charges.
It appears from the documents that Alhaggagi had been under surveillance for some time.
In August, FBI agents saw Alhaggagi get a package from a UPS truck that was parked in his neighborhood and empty its contents into the trunk of a vehicle.
The box contained clothes, backpacks and another small box. He then tossed the empty shipping box into the garbage from which the FBI agents retrieved it.
Upon examination, the agents saw the box from the Trunk Club was addressed to a fake name and address.
Investigators were then able to determine the shipment had been purchased for $4,032 using a bogus Wells Fargo credit card.
Several months later, Alhaggagi was taken into custody.