A New Jersey man who tried to help organize a "small army" of ISIS fighters in the Garden State and New York was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years behind bars.
Alaa Saadeh was part of a group of men who were trying to support the ISIS terror group, prosecutors said. Saadeh admitted he gave money and credit cards to other members of the group to try to help them travel to Syria. He and others in the group watched ISIS propaganda including beheadings and other killings by the terror group. His brother, Nader Saadeh, was among the group charged in the scheme.
Saadeh pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS in Newark federal court before Judge Sarah Wigenton. In addition to the 15 year sentence Tuesday, Judge Susan Wife imposed lifetime supervised release for when Saadeh completes his sentence.
"I apologize to everybody… I feel like I let my family down, my brother down, myself down," he said. "These people (ISIS) are not who they claim they are. They are making it worse for Muslim people."
The 24-year-old Saadeh added, "I have no one to blame but myself. The government says I could have done something to prevent this and they are right. I could have done more. I don't want anything to do with this group I want to apologize again."
Wife said she didn't know if Saadeh's apology was sincere.
"If you are sincere and truly disavowing ISIS you will choose a different path," she said.
Saadeh has no criminal history. At the hearing Tuesday he admitted he smoked a lot of marijuana before becoming radicalized and took his friends at their word when they talked about Islam.
Prosecutors said that Saadeh lied to the FBI when he was questioned and destroyed evidence that connected his brother to his scheme. They also said he let the other members of the New Jersey cell meet at his apartment.
"He could have stopped it," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson Welle. "Instead, he planned it, facilitated it and agreed to help cover it up."
Saadeh was the second man to plead guilty in connection with this New Jersey cell. In September, Samuel Topaz admitted he wanted to join ISIS. His lawyer said if members of the group had failed to get to Syria or Iraq on their own, they had discussed an alternate plan of buying guns inside the US and targeting the White House and other landmarks for an attack.
Officials have said the parents of Alaa and Nader Saadeh were deported more than a decade ago in connection with an alleged credit card fraud case. The Saadeh children were allowed to stay with custodians in New Jersey because they were US citizens, officials said.