FBI agents arrested a Lackawanna man they say was trying to recruit local people for ISIS and who was about to leave the country.
Arafat Nagi, 44, was preparing to leave Lackawanna, and agents believed he was headed to the Middle East to fight with ISIS, prompting agents to take him into custody, according to a source.
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. at a news conference Wednesday said Nagi has on two separate occasions traveled from Lackawanna to Turkey to try to join the terrorist organization, which also is known as ISIL.
Nagi had bought body armor, boots, Islamic headband, a face mask, night vision goggles and burn kit, federal authorities said.
He was known to local as he was involved in a domestic incident in 2013, according to law enforcement sources, who said he threatened to behead his daughter with a knife.
Law enforcement officials also said Wednesday that Nagi was a friend and associate of several members of the Lackawanna Six.
Nagi was arraigned Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, who ordered him held without bail, pending a felony hearing Friday morning.
Beginning in August 2012 and up to the present, Nagi is accused of attempting to “provide material and resources” to a designated terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also called ISIS.
Scott told Nagi he faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, if convicted.
Nagi, who was born in Buffalo, said he has not worked since 2009, when he was injured. He told the judge he previously worked delivering medication to pharmacies for Prestige Delivery Systems, but was fired. He also described himself as disabled, though he never has filed for disability benefits. Nagi said he relies on family members to pay his bills.
Nagi said he is divorced and the father of a son, 23, and daughter, 21.
Assistant US Attorney Joseph Trippi said he moved for continued detention of Nagi because he is “a risk of flight and danger to the community.”
Scott assigned attorney Jeremy Schwartz to defend Nagi.
“It’s very early in the case to make any comments about the evidence or charges,” Schwartz told reporters outside the courtroom.
Federal officials said Nagi had been on their radar “for about a year.”
“The FBI had been watching him for some time and arrested him because he was planning to take action today, preparing to leave and go fight,” a source familiar with the investigation said.
Nagi, formerly of Detroit, had been interviewed by agents and, when questioned, was vague about a 10-day period that remains unaccounted for, a source said.
Agents believe that Nagi attempted to recruit local people for the terrorist organization, according to a source with knowledge of the arrest.
When the man tried to recruit people in Lackawanna, his efforts were spurned, according to another source familiar with the arrest.
Federal and local police executed search warrants at a Lackawanna home early Wednesday.
The search centered on 151 Olcott St., a two-story cape home in the city’s first ward. A spokeswoman for the FBI confirmed the activity but declined to comment further.
Agents searched the home, where the front and side doors were left ajar, as well the detached garage.
Lackawanna city police patrol vehicles blocked access to the street at Ingham Avenue. Several other unmarked vehicles, believed to be from other agencies, were parked on Olcott.
Hochul was joined by representatives of the FBI, the state police and other local agencies.
On Wednesday morning, at one point, an FBI agent removed a ladder from a truck and carried it onto the property.
Then, shortly before 9:30 a.m., an agent made two trips out of the house to a sport utility vehicle. He carried a brown paper bag the first trip and two plastic bags on the second. He then got into the SUV and drove away from the scene.
Shortly before 10 a.m., agents could be seen sifting through the contents of two garbage totes and placing some of those contents into black plastic bags in the driveway. Meanwhile, several children played nearby on Olcott.
This isn’t the first time terrorism has touched Lackawanna. One year and one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, eight Lackawanna men were accused of visiting an al Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.