A Beavercreek teenager who authorities say went to Egypt and Jordan in February attempting to join a terrorist group was arrested by an FBI team that used “actors” working online and undercover to prevent him from boarding a flight Wednesday on another effort to join ISIS fighters overseas.
Naser Almadaoji, 19, was taken into custody at the Columbus airport and charged Thursday in Dayton’s U.S District Court with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
Almadaoji had a plane tickets to Kazakhstan. From there, he was planning to be smuggled into Afghanistan and join ISIS Khorasan, an affiliate of ISIS in the country, said Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
“This is kind of scary thinking that someone that close to me is a possible terrorist,” said James Fisher, a neighbor of Almadaoji.
According to the complaint, Almadaoji was born in Iraq and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Beavercreek school officials confirmed he attended the district under the name Naser Munshid from 2011 to 2015, but they said he withdrew from school in September 2015.
Almadaoji came to the attention of U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities upon returning from Egypt and Jordan. He reported his backpack and $3,000 were stolen by a taxi driver and also made comments about joining a military group in northern Iraq, according to the criminal complaint.
Later in the year, Almadaoji struck up contact with multiple “actors” assisting the federal investigation as undercover or confidential sources as part of the FBI’s Dayton-Cincinnati Joint Terrorism Task Force, Glassman said.
“From August on till today, the people that he’s been communicating with and trying to plot with have been in cooperation with the FBI,” Glassman said.
Almadaoji is in custody at the Butler County Jail, where he will be detained until a detention hearing Tuesday.
“I can only say that my client is a 19-year-old citizen of the United States who is presumed by our law to be innocent of this charge, and that we intend to vigorously defend his case,” said Almadaoji’s court appointed defender, James P. Fleisher.
Almadaoji — who at one point made a video of himself pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi — had a variety of ideas about how to damage the United States, but he realized he needed training to execute those plans, Glassman said.
Fluent in both English and Arabic, Almadaoji translated ISIS propaganda into English for one of the confidential sources during September, the government alleges.
Also last month, Almadaoji discussed plans for sowing conflict within the United States with another undercover FBI employee, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Almadaoji asked the undercover contact to join him in a plan to plant incriminating evidence on the computers and phones of militia group leaders in the U.S., tip off the FBI, then use snipers and explosives to start a battle between the militias and federal agents.
“After it turns bloody, imagine a car bomb going off at a federal building killing dozens of feds,” Almadaoji told the contact according to the complaint.
Also last month, Almadaoji told the undercover FBI employee that he had decided to travel through Kazakhstan to Afghanistan and train with the ISIS terrorist organization, the government alleges.
To finance the trip, Almadaoji suggested robbing an area jewelry store and met the undercover contact at a Beavercreek parking lot, according to the complaint.
In early October, the undercover operative told Almadaoji that he received two credit cards through a “scheme” and started withdrawing funds from ATMs to finance the trip, according to court documents.
About Oct. 4, the undercover employee provided Almadaoji with $2,000 cash and discussed more details of the trip. After a purported $8,000 was obtained, the two firmed up plans and Almadaoji purchased plane tickets to fly Wednesday from Columbus to Astana, Kazakhstan, according to the complaint.
Almadaoji was taken into custody on his way to a TSA checkpoint after obtaining a boarding pass.
Neighbors of a Beavercreek house linked to Almadaoji noted strange activity on the street in past weeks, including a number of SUVs with tinted windows that in hindsight could have been part of the investigation.
Fisher, one of those neighbors, said he even jotted down the plate number of an occupied vehicle parked along the street for an extended time in case a break-in was later reported in the neighborhood.
“I’m starting to put two and two together now that I hear this,” Fisher said. “I think it could have been them watching him.”
Another neighbor, who declined to be identified, saw about dozen Beavercreek police officers at the residence on Wednesday.
“Obviously it’s really surprising,” the man said. “When you walk out your front door and you see the police over there, you know it makes you think about it … You don’t think it’s going to be right here in Beavercreek, Ohio.”