Fil-Am teen arrested for plotting terrorist attacks for ISIS
SAN FRANCISCO — Federal authorities have arrested 19-year-old Filipino American Justin Nojan Sullivan of Morganton, North Carolina for threatening to carry out assassinations in the U.S. in support of the Islamic State terrorist group.
According to a 12-page criminal complaint filed in court Monday (June 22) in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sullivan plotted several domestic attacks hoping to kill 1,000 Americans and making a videotape of his exploits to send to ISIL (a.k.a. ISIS) leaders.
Authorities charged Sullivan with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIL, one count of transporting and receiving a silencer in interstate commerce with intent to commit a felony and one count of receipt and possession of an unregistered silencer.
The criminal complaint gave chilling details of how the teen, who lived with his parents at their home in Rose Carswell Road, was planning to shoot people with cyanide-laced bullets and blow people up using a vehicle filled with bombs.
“As alleged in the complaint, the defendant was planning assassinations and violent attacks in the United States and is charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIL and federal firearms violations,” said Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin. “[Our] highest priority is counter terrorism and we will continue to pursue justice against those who provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
Sullivan, who is currently in federal custody, faces a total maximum sentence of 40 years for the charges and $510,000 in fines. The charge of conspiring to provide material support carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charge for transporting and receiving the silencer carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 while its receipt and possession carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
According to the criminal complaint, the FBI became aware of Sullivan’s plans to obtain a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle at the Hickory Gun Show in Hickory on Saturday, which he planned to use to kill a large number of U.S. citizens on behalf of ISIL. He planned to kill at the end of the month, according to federal documents.
It was the teen’s parents who tipped authorities that their son was up to something, calling 911 on April 21 after the young Sullivan started burning several household items, particularly religious articles.
After that episode, an FBI undercover agent made contact with Justin, who described himself as a Muslim convert and “mujahid,” or one engaged as a guerilla warrior in Jihad or holy war.
“Justin Sullivan intended to commit violent acts against innocent people in the U.S. to support the terrorist organization ISIL,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong.
According to the affidavit, the teen asked the agent for a homemade silencer to use for practice assassinations before the big attack saying, “I’ll be doing shootings of my own before then … I’m excited.”
The undercover agent said he was invited by Sullivan on June 6 to join the Islamic State of North America.
He also asked the agent to prove he was serious by killing people. He also talked about using biological weapons, including coating bullets with cyanide.
“1,000…Yes, I’m thinking about using biological weapons…coat our bullets with cyanide…and then set off a gas bomb to finish off the rest…it’s easy to make,” the affidavit says Sullivan told the agent.
‘Big attack’ sought
“Our attacks need to be as big as possible…we can do minor assassinations before the big attack for training,” Sullivan said to the agent, according to documents. He talked about using a moving van filled with explosives and detonating it.
During conversations with the undercover agent, Sullivan had asked the agent to kill his parents and offered to send money and his parents’ location to the agent, the affidavit said.
On June 12, Sullivan told the agent he needed the suppressor by the end of the week, which was Friday, the day he was arrested. The two talked about how the agent should mail the suppressor to Sullivan, with the agent asking for Sullivan’s address.
On June 17, FBI agents observed Sullivan going to a local library and reading the book, “The History of al Qaeda.”
The affidavit said the FBI built a functional silencer at Sullivan’s request, the affidavit said. The silencer does not bear the required serial number, and is not registered to Sullivan or any person in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
The FBI sent the silencer to the address Sullivan gave the agent and his mother picked up the package at the mailbox Friday afternoon.
Sullivan was at home at the time. Agents received consent from Sullivan’s mother and had a federal search warrant to search the home that day.
Silencer, cash found
Agents found the “silencer” hidden under plastic in a crawlspace that was accessible from the basement. They also found around $689 in Sullivan’s bedroom.
Sullivan was interviewed and talked about his discussions to help ISIL but said he didn’t mean it and didn’t plan to carry out what he had discussed, the affidavit said.
“Sullivan said he initiated the conversation with the (agent) about the planned terrorist attacks,” the affidavit said. “Sullivan said he talked with the (agent) about doing attacks with a firearm at a bar or concert, places that were not very far away, and admitted that he had looked in the online yellow pages for places to attack.”
The affidavit also said Sullivan planned on conducting the attacks between Sunday and Tuesday, because his parents would be out of town.
On June 19, the FBI with the support of the Hickory, North Carolina Police Department, the Burke County, North Carolina Sheriffs Office and the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Sullivan did not resist when he was arrested at his home.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel Michael Savage and Trial Attorney Gregory Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism section.
Dad speaks out
The local Morganton New Herald reported Tuesday that Rich Sullivan, who alerted authorities about his son’s unusual behavior, did not regret his decision.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life, said Rich Sullivan told Sharon McBrayer in an interview outside his home on Tuesday. “But, deep down, I knew it was the right thing to do.”
The elder Sullivan is a retired U.S. Marine captain, who served in the Marine Corps for 21 years. An American flag flies at his home 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“When you take an oath, it’s to defend against enemies foreign and domestic,” Rich Sullivan said. “I just didn’t know it would be that close to home.”
The retired Marine officer said his military training helped him make one of the hardest decisions of his life.
“You’re an American first and then a parent,” he said.
Like us on Facebook
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.