What to Know
- A Bronx man who kept an ISIS flag in his apartment was sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to terror charges
- Sajmir Alimehmeti, 26, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who called him a "ticking time bomb"
- Authorities said Alimehmeti began collecting weapons such as combat knives that could be used in a "lone-wolf" style terrorist attack
An Albanian-turned-U.S. citizen who kept an Islamic State group flag in his Bronx apartment was sentenced to 22 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to terror charges.
Sajmir Alimehmeti, 26, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who called him a "ticking time bomb." He called his conduct "terrifying."
In February 2018, he admitted providing material support to the group.
A onetime plumbing assistant who had studied funeral services, Alimehmeti was arrested in May 2016 on evidence assembled over eight months by two undercover New York City police officers and an undercover FBI employee posing as Islamic State group recruits.
Authorities said Alimehmeti began collecting weapons such as combat knives that could be used in a "lone-wolf" style terrorist attack.
Arresting agents reported recovering terrorist propaganda, the flag and images of jihadist fighters.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release that Alimehmeti had traveled overseas to support the Islamic State group's terror campaign by buying military-grade weapons and helping another recruit get travel documents, equipment and encryption technology to fight with the group in Syria.
"Even after his incarceration, Alimehmeti continued his supportive conduct for ISIS by working with convicted Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi, to distribute ISIS propaganda in prison," Berman said.
According to the criminal complaint from 2016, he tried to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS on two occassions in 2014 but was blocked each time by British authorities. Then, he allegedly tried to help an undercover informant who claimed to be attempting to join the organization.
The complaint alleges that Alimehmeti first traveled to the United Kingdom in October of 2014 in an attempt to continue on to the Middle East but was denied entry to the country when British authorities at Manchester Airport found nunchucks and camouflage clothing in his luggage.
He tried again that December, according to the complaint, and was again stopped in the United Kingdom after British authorities at Heathrow Airport in London found images of ISIS and improvised explosive devices on his cellphone.
Alerted by UK authorities, the FBI went to work, introducing Alimehmeti to undercover law enforcement informants who posed as ISIS recruits interested in traveling to Syria, according to court papers.
A year after the second attempt, Alimehmeti tried to get a new passport and claimed he had lost his old one, according to the complaint. But he allegedly told undercover agents that he already had $2,500 to travel to Syria but needed to get a new passport in a different name because his had rejection stamps from the United Kingdom and was "already in the system."
When he met undercover agents, Alimehmeti allegedly expressed interest in joining ISIS, telling one who he thought was set to head overseas, "I'm ready to f---ing go with you, man...You know I would... I'm done with this place."
He then bought that informant a phone to be used overseas and allegedly talked about "apps" that would encrypt his communications. He also bought two informants boots to use while fighting with ISIS at a sporting-goods store in Manhattan. The complaint also alleges that Alimehmeti also took one of the agents to John F. Kennedy Airport so the agent could fly to join ISIS.
According to the complaint, Alimehmeti played two ISIS-produced music videos that depicted prisoners being beheaded for the undercover agents. He allegedly told the agents that the videos helped him stay motivated while exercising.
Photos from the complaint show him posing in his Bronx apartment with what appears to be an ISIS flag. He also allegedly bought knives, steel-knuckled gloves, a pocket chainsaw, handcuffs and masks, and had MP3 files containing lectures by former al-Qaida official Anwar al-Awlaki.
The court papers said Alimehmeti told the undercover contacts he and his brother "had our own plan" to travel from Albania to Syria but that his brother had been arrested in Albania.
In a footnote, the FBI said in court papers that Alimehmeti's brother was arrested on weapons and assault charges in Albania in August 2015.