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Ex-convict accused of planning ISIS attack in Rochester

An ex-convict and Muslim convert planned to kill patrons at a Rochester restaurant/bar on New Year’s Eve in an ISIS-inspired plot, federal authorities said Thursday.

Emanuel L. Lutchman, 25, claimed he was receiving direction from an overseas member of the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Lutchman “planned to commit an armed attack against civilians” at the unnamed Rochester establishment, authorities said.

Lutchman and an FBI informant drove past the restaurant/bar on Monday. That’s when Lutchman identified the establishment as a potential location for the attack. Lutchman also suggested “they could sneak a bomb into the club/bar and plant the bomb inside,” according to a court document.

Then on Tuesday, Lutchman and the FBI informant went to a Walmart in Rochester to buy a machete, two knives, two black ski masks, zip ties, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves for the planned attack, according to the complaint.

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and Adam S. Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Buffalo.

“The FBI thwarted Emanuel Lutchman’s intent to kill civilians on New Year’s Eve,” Cohen said. “The FBI remains concerned about people overseas who use the Internet to inspire people in the United States to commit acts of violence where they live.”

Lutchman has been charged with planning to kill innocent civilians as part of an attempt to provide support for ISIS, Carlin said in his statement.

“Thankfully, law enforcement was able to intervene and thwart Lutchman’s deadly plans,” Carlin said.

Lutchman appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson on Thursday morning. He is due back in court Jan. 8.

Lutchman “is a self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history dating back to approximately 2006,” according to the criminal complaint.

He also planned to join ISIS overseas, according to court documents.

Lutchman spent about five years in prison and had “previous state mental hygiene arrests.”

Investigators obtained copies of electronic communications between Lutchman and a person who said they were an member of the Islamic State in Syria. In those communications, Lutchman stated “he hates it in the United States.”

Authorities say they have an audio recording – obtained from a communication with another confidential source – of Lutchman swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

In other discussions with informants, Lutchman discussed “doing assassinations and using a pressure cooker bomb.”

During the meeting in which they drove by the proposed target, Lutchman also proposed “they kidnap a couple people and kill them,” according to the complaint.

Earlier this month, a Rochester pizzeria owner admitted he tried to recruit ISIS supporters.

In that case, Mufid Elfgeeh, a 31-year-old small-business owner struggling to make ends meet, admitted to trying to recruit three people, two of them FBI informants, to join and fight with the group overseas.

Elfgeeh’s conviction on two charges of trying to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization made him one of the first Americans convicted of recruiting ISIS sympathizers.

Another Western New York resident was also charged with supporting ISIS.

Arafat M. Nagi, of Lackawanna, was arrested in July after an FBI investigation concluded that he was preparing to leave for Turkey and eventually travel to Syria to serve with the group. The FBI also says Nagi posted pro-ISIS photos on social media and has indicated support for its acts of violence.

Lutchman was convicted of second-degree robbery and started a prison term in 2006, according to online records from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Lutchman also has a pending domestic violence case against a woman, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

The charges of providing material support to a terrorist organization carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“This New Year’s Eve prosecution underscores the threat of ISIL even in upstate New York but demonstrates our determination to immediately stop any who would cause harm in its name,” Hochul said in a statement. “What began as an ISIL directive to harm the community ended with the arrest of this defendant and a message for any other individuals considering similar behavior – you will be caught, you will be prosecuted and you will be punished.”

email: abesecker@buffnews.com