SAN DIEGO–A San Diego man pleaded guilty in federal court Friday, admitting that he deliberately made false statements to FBI and State Department officials during a terrorism-related interview at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey in March.
According to a plea agreement, Mohamad Saeed Kodaimati acknowledged that he lied when he said he did not know any members of Islamic State in Iraq, a designated foreign terrorist organization known as ISIL; that he falsely claimed that while in Syria he was never involved with Al Nusrah, also a foreign terrorist organization; and that he again lied when he said that while in Syria he had never engaged in combat or fired a weapon at anyone.
In his plea agreement, Saeed admitted that he knew a member of ISIL and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah fighters.
According to the plea agreement, the government and the defense will jointly recommend a sentence of 96 months.2
“Lying to federal agents—particularly in a terrorism probe—is a crime that has the potential to influence an investigation or even jeopardize national security,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “This is especially true when, as here, the defendant lied about what he was doing and who he was associating with in a combat zone in Syria.”
“Counterterrorism investigations are the highest priority investigations conducted by FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces,” said Eric S. Birnbaum, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “When someone lies about their knowledge and involvement with international terrorist organizations including engaging in combat, this can adversely affect investigative activity in these important investigations. Today’s guilty plea will hold Mr. Kodiamati accountable for his lies and dissuade others from lying to FBI Agents concerning international terrorism matters.”
“When the defendant returned to San Diego after fighting abroad alongside international terrorists, he found HSI and FBI at his doorstep,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations San Diego “This case demonstrates our relentless resolve to protect the homeland.”
Saeed was arrested in April and charged in a federal criminal complaint with two counts of making false statements involving international terrorism matters.
According to the criminal complaint, Saeed was born in Syria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September 2008. In December 2012, Saeed travelled from San Diego to Istanbul and was in Syria and Turkey until his return to the United States.
In March 2015, Saeed returned to the United States and was interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and the FBI. Saeed was arrested by FBI agents and members of the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force in Rancho Bernardo without incident on April 22.