Three Palm Beach men charged with conspiring to help Islamic State

Miami International Airport. Three Palm Beach men were charged with conspiring to help the Islamic State, including West Palm Beach resident Gregory Hubbard, 52, who was arrested at MIA on Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Miami International Airport. Three Palm Beach men were charged with conspiring to help the Islamic State, including West Palm Beach resident Gregory Hubbard, 52, who was arrested at MIA on Thursday, July 21, 2016. el Nuevo Herald

A West Palm Beach man first talked with an FBI informant a year ago about his desire to travel to Syria to help the terrorist cause of America’s No. 1 foreign enemy, the Islamic State.

Gregory Hubbard, also known as “Jibreel,” told the informant that he had a local friend “in touch” with a Syrian national who was a member of ISIL, according to a criminal complaint. Hubbard introduced the informant, who was posing as an ISIL sympathizer bent on traveling to Syria, to the friend — as well as another colleague seeking to join the same violent jihad.

And so began the alleged terrorism plot of Hubbard, 52, Darren Arness Jackson, 50, of West Palm Beach, and Dayne Antani Christian, 31, of Lake Park, federal authorities said on Friday.

The three Palm Beach County men were charged with conspiring and attempting to support the Islamic State.

Hubbard was arrested at Miami International Airport on Thursday before boarding a flight to Germany, where he planned to take a train to Turkey and then travel to Syria to join ISIL, according to the FBI criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office. Jackson was arrested at the airport on Thursday after dropping off Hubbard for his flight, and Christian was arrested at work.

Jackson, known as “Daoud,” and Christian, known as “Shakur,” gave Hubbard weapons and trained him to use them for his overseas mission, according to the complaint. Christian was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In undercover recordings by the FBI informant, they not only praised the Islamic as a “true Caliphate” but also applauded recent attacks in Orlando, San Bernardino, CA., and Nice, France.

The three men are being held at the Miami Federal Detention Center, awaiting a detention hearing on Wednesday. They will be arraigned on Aug. 5 at the West Palm Beach federal courthouse.

The FBI infiltrated the ring of alleged ISIL supporters through the confidential informant. The source met with Hubbard repeatedly over the past year, discussing plans to join the “soccer team,” code for the Islamic State. His two colleagues expressed the same goal.

Hubbard emailed the informant a 100-page support manual published by ISIL, adding that he had written two articles and sent them to the Islamic State. He said he was working on a third article: “The subject of this last article was the media’s converage of ISIL and what was wrong with it,” the complaint said.

In March, Hubbard told the informant that he was “getting very serious and wanted to leave the United States to join the Islamic State soon,” the complaint said, adding that he planned to put his personal belongings in Georgia.

The informant asked him if he wanted to fly one way. No, Hubbard said. “I have to go two ways, just for security reasons,” he told the informant, adding that he “probably needed $10,000-$15,000” for his trip to Syria.

At one point, Hubbard expressed frustration over the delays, saying he was “tired of meeting the [informant] for coffee and that he was ready to go.”

In June, the informant was with Hubbard when he booked a roundtrip ticket through from Miami to Berlin, Germany. The plan was to depart with informant on July 21. The return ticket was booked for Aug. 15 to give the appearance they were just visiting Europe for three weeks.

Separate reservations would be made to travel by train from Berlin to Turkey.

On July 21, Jackson drove Hubbard and the informant in his gray Volkswagen from West Palm Beach to MIA for their trip to Syria. After Jackson dropped them off, Hubbard and the informant obtained their boarding passes at the ticket counter and cleared the TSA checkpoint — at which point Hubbard was arrested.

Jackson was arrested after he left the airport premises. Christian was arrested at his workplace.

Federal authorities applauded the FBI’s undercover operation that thwarted the trio’s alleged plot to support the Islamic State.

“Individuals seeking to travel and take up arms with ISIL pose a threat to the United States and humanity across the globe,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force continue to work proactively in order to stifle and disrupt any potential danger posed by the terrorist organizations and their supporters.”

The Palm Beach County men are not the first Florida residents with alleged ties to the terrorist organization. Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who is believed to have been the first American suicide bomber to join ISIL, had lived in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce before he blew himself up in Syria in 2014.