A jury found two Southern California men guilty Tuesday of attempting to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.
Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi, both 25, were convicted of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. Elhuzayel also was found guilty of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, while Badawi was found guilty of aiding and abetting that attempt.
Prosecutors alleged that Elhuzayel was attempting to join ISIS at the time of his arrest in May 2015. The Anaheim man was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport bearing a plane ticket to Israel with a stopover in Turkey. Investigators also claimed that Badawi bought Elhuzayel’s ticket with a debit card tied to federal Pell Grant funds.
Among other evidence, prosecutors said investigators recorded a phone conversation between the two men in which they discussed how “it would be a blessing to fight for the cause of Allah, and to die on the battlefield.” Authorities also say the men discussed ISIS and terror attacks on social media and referred to the jihadist group as “we.”
Kate Corrigan, an attorney for Badawi, told the Orange County Register that both men’s plans amounted to “a lot of talk.”
“I don’t think these guys went to a gym, let alone a shooting range or a gun store,” Corrigan told the paper. “And they talk about getting martyrdom? Give me a break. These two? They are no holy warriors.”
In addition to the terrorism-related counts, Elhuzayel was found guilty of 26 counts of bank fraud, and Badawi was found guilty of one count of federal financial aid fraud. Prosecutors said Elhuzayel deposited stolen checks into his account before withdrawing cash at various banks to fund his travel plans.
Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in September. Elhuzayel faces a maximum sentence of 30 years on each bank fraud count, while Badawi faces up to five years imprisonment on the financial aid fraud count. Both men face up to 15 years on each count of providing material support to ISIS.