Alaa Mohd Abusaad
A young woman accused of attempting to provide support and resources to terrorist organization al Qaeda has pleaded guilty to concealment of terrorism financing.
Alaa Mohd Abusaad, a former University of Alabama student, entered her guilty plea in federal court in Tuscaloosa on Friday, according to a joint announcement by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay Town and Birmingham’s FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr.
“National security continues to be my office’s highest priority,” Town said. “I would like to extend my personal gratitude to the FBI for its continued diligence and proactive work on this case and to the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section for their continued commitment to our shared mission. The enemies of freedom come in many forms, but there is but one destination for those captured offending our laws in support of terror: a United States penitentiary.”
Abusaad, who was living in Tuscaloosa at the time of the crimes, was initially charged by federal authorities nearly one year ago. She was arrested in October 2018 in Ohio.
According to authorities, Abusaad instructed a female undercover FBI informant how to send money to the mujahedeen – fighters engaged in jihad – saying money was always needed. “You can’t have a war without weapons,’’ Abusaad told the informant. “You can’t prepare a soldier without equipment.”
Federal records said the investigation began in February 2018 when Abusaad was introduced to the informant by another person. At that point, according to the criminal complaint, Abusaad and the informant began communicating through a mobile messaging app.
The communication between the two continued through at least April 2018, during which time authorities say Abusaad advised the informant on how to send money in a manner that would avoid detection by law enforcement, including by using fake names and addresses when conducting electronic money transfers. Subsequently, Abusaad introduced the informant to a financial facilitator who could route the informant’s money to “brothers that work with aq” (meaning al Qaeda)” the complaint stated.
In April 2018, the informant wired $50 through Western Union to Mustafa Yelatan in Turkey. After the transaction, records state, Abusaad told the informant, “And remember they can’t do anything to you. You were completely covered. May Allah protect you. And plus it’s a fake…Just be confident and don’t stress.”
Investigation of the case was conducted by the FBI, including FBI offices in Birmingham, Alabama and Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Henry Cornelius and Manu Balachandran and Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
The maximum penalty for concealment of terrorism financing is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and up to a life term of supervised release.