The U.S. Attorney’s office reported on Tuesday that a 25-year-old from Columbia, Missouri was charged with attempting to provide material to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Robert Lorenzo Hester was charged in federal court after he was allegedly making preparations to carry out a terrorist attack with individuals he believed were involved with the terror group, though those individuals were actually undercover law enforcement officers.
Hester was arrested on February 17 and has been in federal custody since. He was caught after showing up for a scheduling meeting with one of the undercover officers who he believed to be in ISIS. Authorities originally took notice of Hester in September of 2016 when he made multiple suspicious posts on social media.
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson for the Western District of Missouri and Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson of the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office made the announcement on Tuesday.
“As alleged in the complaint, Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. attempted to provide material support to ISIS by participating in what he believed would be a deadly attack committed in the name of the foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Countering terrorist threats remains the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue our efforts to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders.”
“First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Dickson. “He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims. He readily participated in the preparations for an attack, provided materials and resources for an attack and voiced his intent to carry out an attack. I commend the FBI for protecting the public from a security threat.”
“Terrorism knows no demographic boundaries and remains the FBI’s top priority,” said Special Agent in Charge Jackson. “The arrest of Hester is the culmination of an extensive FBI investigation and demonstrates the challenges law enforcement faces in identifying individuals intent on causing harm.”
Hester was born in Missouri and was enlisted in the U.S. Army for less than a year before receiving a general discharge in 2013.