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Woman sentenced to 6 1/2 years for smuggling cash and gold for ISIS

ISIS flag (DoD Photo/Released)

A former Indiana woman and widow of an Islamic State fighter has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for providing support to ISIS, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

Samantha Marie Elhassani, 35, formerly of Elkhart, was sentenced in the Northern District of Indiana to 78 months in prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty last year to one count of financing terrorism.

Elhassani, also known as Samantha Sally, was originally charged in August 2018 with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, stemming from criminal activity conducted between fall 2014 and summer 2015. She also was charged with aiding and abetting individuals in providing material support to ISIS.

According to court documents, Elhassani helped her husband and his brother join ISIS by transporting more than $30,000 in cash and gold from the United States, depositing it in a safe deposit box in Hong Kong.

Officials said Elhassani melted down the gold to look like jewelry and did not disclose the cash and gold on customs declaration forms. At the time Elhassani transported the money and gold, she knew that her husband and brother-in-law had expressed an interested in joining ISIS and that they intended to use these resources to support ISIS.

During her last trip to Hong Kong in March 2015, Elhassani got “tactical gear, including rifle scopes and image-stabilized binoculars,” according to the Department of Justice.

From there, she and her family — including her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter — traveled to Istanbul before arriving in ISIS-controlled territory in Syria around June 2015.

“In the months leading up to the move to Syria, Elhassani helped conceal the plans by lying to family, friends and federal agents about her travel,” the Department of Justice said in a release.

Elhassani and her children eventually ended up in a Kurdish detention camp and were transferred to U.S. custody by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in July 2018.

The couple’s children were placed in the custody of Indiana’s child welfare services following her arrest.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers noted in a statement Monday noted the Justice Department has held Elhassani accountable for turning “her back on her country to support a terrorist organization.”

“We repatriated Elhassani from Syria because every nation is responsible for holding its citizens accountable and addressing the future threat they may pose,” Demers said. “We will not stop.”


(c) 2020 The Indianapolis Star

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