WASHINGTON — A Metro Transit Police officer in Washington, D.C., was arrested Wednesday on charges of trying to provide material support to the Islamic State, according to federal prosecutors.
Nicholas Young, who was arrested at Metro headquarters, is the first U.S. police officer to face a terror-related charge. The 36-year-old officer has worked for the Metro Transit Police Department for 13 years.
Paul Wiedefeld, the CEO and general manager of Metro Transit, said in a statement that the FBI began investigating Young after Metro Transit Police alerted the agency of their “concerns” about him.
“(I)t reinforces that, as citizens, we all have a duty to report suspicious activity whenever and wherever it occurs,” he said.
According to the affidavit filed in the case, Young traveled to Libya once and tried to go there a second time. He told FBI agents he had been with rebels trying to overthrow the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. According to the allegations in the case, a search of Young’s luggage turned up body armor, a Kevlar helmet and several other military-style items.
Wiedefeld called the allegations “profoundly disturbing” and said Metro Transit, which has served the Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia area for 40 years, worked “hand in glove” with the FBI from the outset.
Young, of Fairfax, Va., was first interviewed by the FBI in September 2010 in connection with an acquaintance, Zachary Chesser, who had been arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Over the next several years, according to court records, Young allegedly had numerous interactions with undercover investigators and an FBI informant discussing his alleged knowledge and “interest in terrorism-related activity.’’ Many of the interactions were recorded, officials said.
In 2011, Young allegedly met with an undercover investigator alone as well as, on several occasions, with another of Young’s acquaintances, Amine El Khalifi, who later pleaded guilty to charges relating to his plan to conduct a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2012.
On about 20 separate occasions in 2014, Young met with the FBI informant, who posed as a U.S. military reservist of Middle Eastern descent and said he wanted to travel overseas to join the Islamic State. During these conversations, Young allegedly advised the informant how to evade law enforcement detection, particularly to “watch out for informants and not discuss his plans with others.’’
As recently as last month, Young allegedly communicated with the informant about buying gift cards for mobile-messaging accounts that ISIL has used in recruiting others.
According to court records, Young sent 22 gift-card codes last week to an undercover FBI investigator with the message: “Respond to verify receipt … may not answer depending on when as this device will be destroyed after all are sent to prevent the data being possibly seen on this end in the case of something unfortunate.”
The codes were ultimately redeemed by the FBI for $245, according to court documents, which pointed to the purchases as demonstrating material support for the Islamic State.
In 2014, according to the criminal complaint, the informant led Young to believe that he had left the United States and had joined the Islamic State. At that point, FBI undercover personnel stepped in to begin posing as the informant in email communications with Young. In June 2015, according to court documents, Young emailed asking for advice from Islamic State commanders on how to send money to the terrorist group.
In reply, Young said, “(u)nfortunately, I have enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands, so I imagine banking transactions are automatically monitored and will flag depending on what is going on.”