Mother from Indiana sentenced to six and a half years in prison for providing $30,000 for the terrorist group
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- Samantha Elhassani Samantha Elhassani is a Indiana woman who says she was tricked...[+]
- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
An Indiana woman who pleaded guilty to providing financial support to the Islamic State group has been sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison, the Justice Department said Monday.
Samantha Elhassani, 35, formerly of Elkhart, Indiana, was sentenced by US District Court Judge Philip P. Simon to the prison term, as well as three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to financing terrorism, officials said.
Elhassani struck a plea agreement in 2019 with federal prosecutors who agreed to drop more serious conspiracy charges against her and to request a more lenient sentence.
In 2015, Elhassani, her husband, Moussa Elhassani, his brother Abdelhedi and two of Elhassani’s children crossed the border into ISIS-controlled territory in Syria through Turkey, according to the government.
Last year, Elhassani told authorities that when her husband and his brother intended to join ISIS, she made three trips to Hong Kong between November 2014 and April 2015.
She transported more than $30,000 in cash, gold and precious stones to Syria and those assets were intended to be used by ISIS for funding.
According to the Justice Department, Elhassani melted down the gold to look like jewelry and did not disclose the cash and gold on customs declaration forms.
She has been in federal custody since July 2018, when a military cargo transport plane moved her and her children to Gary, Indiana from Syria. The children were placed with the Department of Child Services when Elhassani was first arrested.
Defense attorneys claimed Elhassani spent ‘two horrific years’ in ISIS-controlled Raqqa before she lived in Syrian refugee camps with her four children, where she was interviewed by the FBI on several occasions.
Elhassani’s husband was killed in Syria, with Elhassani claiming he died in an airstrike while fighting for ISIS in 2017.
The couple had three children together, Sarah, the eldest, and Miriam and Ishmael, who were both born in Raqqa after Moussa forced her to move there, she claimed.
Elhassani also has her son, Matthew, 11, from a previous relationship. He lives in Florida. He also traveled to Syria with the couple and was forced by ISIS soldiers to appear in sickening propaganda videos in which he threatened attacks against the West.
Her attorney, Thomas Durkin, said her case is ‘quite different from any other national security case’ he dealt with and that she was forced to go to Syria. The government argued that Elhassani knew what she was doing when she decided to travel into dangerous territory with her children.
The indictment stated that from the fall of 2014 through the summer of 2015, Elhassani provided material support and resources to ISIS knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization.
Elhassani was also charged with aiding and abetting two individuals in providing themselves as personnel to ISIS.
The Department of Justice said she also procured tactical gear and provided funds to support her husband and brother-in-law in joining ISIS.
In July 2018, Elhassani was transferred from the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to US law enforcement and moved back to the US with her children.
Elhassani met her husband in her hometown in 2011 as one of his brothers, Yassin, was married to her sister, Lori.
Moussa had moved to the US from Rabat, Morocco, in the early 2000s and had studied engineering at Fresno State University.
He never graduated from college but had moved to Indiana to help Yassin with his shipping company, ViaAddress.
One year after they met each other, Sam married Moussa in July 2012 in a small ceremony in Indiana.
In 2018, she spoke to CNN from a refugee camp in Northern Syria where she was living with her children.
She claimed Moussa had told her they were going on holiday when she went with him to Hong Kong in 2014.
She claims he had convinced her to move to Morocco for a better life with the children, but they needed to go to Hong Kong first to transfer money.
‘To stay there with my son or watch my daughter leave with my husband – I had to make a decision,’ she told CNN at the time.
‘Maybe I would never have seen my daughter again ever, and how can I live the rest of my life like that.’
‘Once we got to Sanliurfa [Turkish border town], everything changed. I was like a prisoner in the room.
‘This was years in the making. He separated me from my family. I could not see that he was the one that was wrong. It was always “no, my husband is right.”‘
‘People can think whatever they want but they have not been put in a place to make a decision like that,’ she added.
In January, 2015, documents filed in Federal Court in Indiana show that Elhassani and her two eldest children Matthew and Sarah then traveled to Istanbul and onto Rabat in Morocco.
‘Defendant has given several inconsistent explanations of this trip,’ the government document reads.
‘In one instance, she claimed that her family was considering a move to Morocco, and that the purpose of this trip was to check out cheap properties that were supposedly for sale.
‘The government learned during its investigation that Defendant never went house hunting while she was in Morocco.’
The couple later went to Turkey from Hong Kong for what Sally believed to be a romantic getaway where he gave her presents.
She claimed they then arrived at the Turkish border with Syria, on the edge of ISIS territory and she claimed she was forced to enter the war-ravaged country as she feared Moussa would take her daughter without her.
Inside the so-called Caliphate regime, Elhassani claimed her life changed drastically and Moussa became unrecognizable to her.
She claims he bought Yazidi slaves who he argued would help her in the home while he was on the front fighting. He ‘bought’ two teenage girls called Soad and Bedrine and raped both of them in the house.
Elhassani told CNN of one of the girls: ‘In every house that she was in before that was the same situation, but she did not have the support of someone like me.
‘We constantly talked about going to see her mother. I was going to get her out and she was going to go back home.
‘And no, no one will ever know what it is like to watch their husband rape a 14-year-old girl. Ever. And then she comes to you – me – after crying and I hold her and tell her it’s going to be OK. Everything is going to be fine, just be patient.’
Elhassani was also imprisoned by ISIS for trying to escape and for alleged espionage and at the time she was three months pregnant.
She claimed she was then taken to Black Stadium, a former soccer stadium in central Raqqa, and was subjected to beatings, rape and torture there.
She told Mother Jones in 2018: ‘I was told that they were going to do everything to me that the Americans did to their brothers in Guantánamo Bay.
‘You hear screams, you see blood on the floor. It’s all night: sleep deprivation, hunger, living in your own filth, regular beatings, the humiliation, electrocution. You stay in a cell that you can’t even stretch your legs in.
‘There’s no toilet, there’s nothing. You just can’t imagine. They hang you up by the ceiling and they strip you naked and they beat you in front of a bunch of men.’
Elhassani’s son Matthew, a US citizen, was also forced to take part in an ISIS propaganda video where he threatened attacks on the West and President Donald Trump.
In late 2017, Samantha gave a smuggler $10,000 and a gun in exchange for driving her and the children into the desert where a truck took them to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
She stayed in accommodations there until she was taken into federal custody in July 2019.
Source: Daily Mail