June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Two Texas men were charged in separate cases with conspiracy to support terrorists, including one who sought to bankroll a trip to war-torn Syria with a tax refund, U.S. authorities said.
Rahatul Khan of Round Rock and Michael Wolfe of Austin, both 23, were charged yesterday in criminal complaints following undercover investigations that began three years ago, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman in San Antonio.
Wolfe was arrested on June 17 at the George H.W. Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport before boarding a flight to Europe, Pitman said. The Houston-born man had planned to travel to the Middle East to help radical groups fighting in Syria, according to the statement.
An undercover FBI employee met Wolfe’s wife, Jordan, in 2013, and she said she wanted “to support her husband’s goal of traveling to perform a violent form of jihad,” Blake Crow, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a court filing.
The FBI learned this week that Wolfe, his wife and two children planned to fly from Houston to Denmark, before making their way to Turkey and into Syria, in part financed by a $5,000 U.S. income tax refund, according to court papers.
Khan, who was born in Bangladesh, became a U.S. citizen in 2002 and is a full-time student at the University of Texas, according to the criminal complaint.
FBI Agent Jason Cromartie said in the court filing that Khan tried three years ago to recruit an individual online whom he didn’t know -- actually a “confidential source” -- to “wage violent jihad and to murder or maim” foreigners.
After the first meeting in 2011, Khan maintained contact in an Internet chat room and worked with other alleged conspirators to prepare for “violent jihad in Somalia,” according to court papers.
Khan “discussed guns, training, the war against Islam, his preparation for the Third World War, shooting, and getting the youth interested” in holy wars, according to the filings.
In one face-to-face conversation with an informant, Khan said he “could not wait to spill blood,” the agent reported.
Both are in federal custody pending a hearing tomorrow in Austin, he said. If convicted, each faces as long as 15 years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000.
The cases are U.S. v. Khan, 1:14-mj-00285, and U.S. v. Wolfe, 1:14-mj-00288, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin).
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