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Florida woman sentenced for sending cellphones to ISIS for detonating bombs

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)
May 29, 2020

U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell today sentenced Alison Marie Sheppard, a/k/a “Aiisha Abdullah,” (35, Punta Gorda) to 5 years and 10 months in federal prison for attempting to provide material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The court also sentenced Sheppard to a term of 15 years supervised release.

Sheppard had pleaded guilty on May 17, 2019.

According to court documents, from approximately January 2017 until July 18, 2017, Sheppard knowingly attempted to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, by purchasing and shipping 10 cellphones that she intended for ISIS to use to detonate improvised explosive devices.

Beginning in early 2016, Sheppard used Facebook and social media applications to network and find like-minded individuals who supported a Salafi jihadist mindset and ISIS, and she posted videos that she had created to her YouTube channel to instruct her online friends. Sheppard also posted the videos on social media sites in support of her beliefs. Many of these videos broadcasted the teachings of Islamist extremists who supported violent jihad. Among her postings supporting ISIS in social media accounts, Sheppard published screenshots of an online ISIS magazine that contained articles glorifying terrorist acts committed by ISIS members.

Sheppard also used social media applications to engage in encrypted communications with individuals she believed were supporters of ISIS. One of those individuals was someone Sheppard believed had later traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS. Sheppard sent that person an ISIS e-book detailing how ISIS members travel in and out of Syria, including operational security measures to assist foreign fighters in evading detection in their pursuit to join ISIS. That individual was later apprehended by the FBI and began cooperating with federal law enforcement. Sheppard also began communicating with two other individuals who she believed were ISIS supporters, but who were, in fact, undercover law enforcement officers. During one of those conversations, Sheppard told the undercover officer that she had sworn allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the now-deceased former leader of ISIS.

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In June 2017, while engaging in online social media conversations with the cooperating individual and the two undercover law enforcement officers, Sheppard offered to purchase and ship cellphones that ISIS could use to detonate improvised explosive devices. Later, in July 2017, Sheppard purchased 10 cellphones from five stores in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, and Rotonda West, Florida. She arranged to have the phones mailed to one of the undercover officers, believing that they would be forwarded to the Middle East and that ISIS would use them as timers for “pressure cooker” bombs.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department Intelligence Section. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey F. Michelland, Assistant United States Attorney Jesus M. Casas, and Trial Attorney David C. Smith of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

This press release was originally published by the U.S. Department of Justice.