AN Orange County, California man pleaded guilty Friday morning to a federal terrorism offense, admitting that he intended to assist al Qaeda by traveling to Pakistan, where he would provide weapons training to members of the terrorist group.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, California, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Nguyen, who also used the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California. Walter is scheduled to sentence the defendant on March 21. At the time of sentencing, Nguyen faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
In a plea agreement filed last Friday in United States District Court, Nguyen admitted that approximately one year ago, he travelled to Syria, where he joined opposition forces. Using a social network site during a four-month period he was in Syria, Nguyen told people that he was fighting against the Assad regime and that he had had a “confirmed kill.” After he returned to the United States, Nguyen told associates that he had offered to train al Qaida forces in Syria, but his offer had been turned down.
Between August 3, 2013, and October 11, 2013, Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter, but who in fact was working with the FBI. Within the first few minutes of their first meetings, Nguyen began questioning the man to determine if he was a fellow jihadist, according to the plea agreement. Nguyen told the man about his exploits in Syria and said he wanted to return to jihad because “this was what he was born to do.”
During their meetings, Nguyen and the man he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter discussed how Nguyen could travel to Pakistan under a fraudulently obtained United States passport. After Nguyen gave the purported recruiter a photo of himself and a passport application with bogus information, Nguyen agreed to travel to Pakistan, where he would train 30 al Qaeda fighters for five or six weeks to prepare them “for a guerilla warfare ambush attack on coalition forces” that would take place this month, according to the plea agreement.
With the intention to travel to Pakistan to train al Qaeda forces for the ambush, Nguyen on October 1, 2013, purchased a plane ticket to travel from Mexico to Peshawar, Pakistan, he admitted in the plea agreement. On October 11, 2013, Nguyen went to a bus station in Santa Ana, where he purchased a ticket to Mexico. On this date, he was arrested by FBI agents. When he was taken into custody, Nguyen had in his possession the false passport and a computer hard drive that contained “over 180 training videos on shooting firearms.”
Nguyen has been in federal custody since his arrest.
The case against Nguyen is the product of an investigation by the FBI.