Crime & Courts

Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS

A 29-year-old Waxhaw man is accused of lying to the FBI when he denied telling someone he planned to fly to Syria and help others travel there to support ISIS.

Alexander Samuel Smith is charged with two counts of making a false statement to an agency of the United States, according to a bill of indictment unsealed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.

Alexander Samuel Smith
Alexander Samuel Smith Mecklenburg County jail

In July 2014, Smith initiated contact with someone who told him he was an ISIS representative but was really an FBI confidential source, according to the indictment. Over the next several months, Smith told the source he wanted to fight with ISIS in Syria, the indictment said.

The indictment identifies ISIS as a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Smith’s girlfriend worked at a U.S. airline at the time and could buy “buddy passes” for others to fly at discounted fares, according to the court document. In November 2014, Smith met with the source in Matthews and said, “if you need a buddy pass or something like that to be cheaper on the flight, let me know,” the indictment said.

In March 2015, the source reminded Smith via Skype of his offer to obtain a buddy pass. He asked Smith if he could still get such tickets for “a brother,” who ISIS “needed a lot,” according to the indictment.

The source told Smith he wanted to arrange a buddy pass for someone to travel from Tampa Bay, Fla., to Buffalo, N.Y. The person would next travel to Canada and then to Europe, “so I can send him to you know where (Syria),” the indictment said.

“I’ll check on it for you,” the indictment said Smith replied. “I know someone who may ... uh ... have some buddy passes for sale ... uh ... for very cheap.”

A day later, Smith texted the source that he could get a one-way buddy pass from Tampa to Buffalo for “80 bucks. The source replied: “Now I’m gonna get him tickets from Tampa to Buffalo ... from Buffalo, two or three brothers gonna meet him there ... they’re gonna sneak him to Canada ... sneak him, not (chuckle) ... from Canada , he’s going to Europe ... from Europe, going to Turkey ... from Turkey to Syria.”

“Just make sure whatever he’s doing is on the low,” Smith replied, according to the indictment. “ ...Just don’t let him appear on no video or nothing like that. I don’t want to see this guy and then they link it back or something like that.”

The source told Smith the buddy pass was for “Mohamed Hilal,” an American who came from Egypt when he was 3 and was a computer analyst with a big company who could “hijack any computer, any cell phone around the world,” according to the court document. The source said Hilal wanted to go to Syria to serve his religion and ISIS, to which Smith replied in Arabic: “Masha, Allah,” meaning, “God has willed it.”

Smith had his girlfriend buy the buddy pass. He then forwarded the source the itinerary and booking information, the indictment said.

Ten months later, in January 2016, FBI special agents interviewed Smith’s girlfriend, according to the indictment. Learning that the FBI contacted his girlfriend, Smith called the agents and agreed to an interview at the FBI’s Charlotte office. During the interview, he denied telling someone he wanted to go to Syria and fight with ISIS or that he’d bought the buddy pass for Hilal.

“I just want to be a normal American citizen, man, and live my life.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

Related stories from Charlotte Observer