Crime

Man sentenced to 15 years in Miami case linked to al-Qaida

A naturalized U.S. citizen who had once lived in California was sentenced Wednesday in Miami federal court to the maximum 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing thousands of dollars in support to three U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operating under al-Qaida.

Gufran Ahmed Kauser Mohammed, 31, was convicted of a conspiracy conviction in July and sought a more lenient sentence before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. She rejected his request.

Prosecutors Rick del Toro and Brian Frazier argued that Mohammed, who holds a master’s degree in computer science, possessed “a deep hatred for the country that provided him shelter, citizenship and education” and that “his intent was to kill innocent American civilians,” according to court papers.

Mohammed was arrested last year in a Miami-based terrorism investigation led by an FBI employee, who engaged him and a co-defendant, Mohamed Hussein Said, 26, in an online, undercover financial scheme.

Mohammed and Said were charged with conspiring to provide a combined total of about $25,000 to the al-Qaida splinter groups.

Said, who is being held without bond and pleaded not guilty, is set for trial next May.

The Miami FBI employee posed as a brother and a sister who supported al-Qaida as a way to communicate in an Internet chat room with the two men overseas. The men were accused of plotting to finance the terrorist group's battles in Syria and Somalia, according to an indictment.

The “online covert employee” assumed the role of the brother, saying he was an al-Qaida fighter. Then he switched to playing the sister, saying she could help collect money for the terrorist group.

In 2012, the FBI employee first engaged Mohammed in Saudi Arabia and later Said in Kenya.

Mohammed, who once had lived in California, and Said, who had resided in Mombasa, were arrested in Saudi Arabia and brought to Miami by FBI agents.

According to the indictment, Mohammed and Said met in Saudi Arabia in May 2011 and agreed to provide financial and other resources to an al-Qaida affiliate, al-Shabaab, which was seeking to overthrow the U.S.-backed transitional government in Somalia.

Through September of that year, Mohammed allegedly wired Said more than $11,000 via Western Union to back al-Shabaab, the indictment said.

In April 2012, the FBI undercover employee established online contact with Mohammed, according to the indictment. Mohammed arranged to send a series of Western Union wire transfers totaling more than $9,000 through November to the FBI employee. The funds were intended for another al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, which is fighting the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

Last December, Mohammed also met in person with a purported associate of the FBI undercover employee and gave him 14,400 Saudi Arabian riyals, worth about $3,800, which also was meant to support the Nusra Front, the indictment said.

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