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An atypical terror case comes to close with 20-year sentence

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mohamed-Elshinawy.jpg

Minneapolis Star Tribune

An atypical terror case comes to close with 20-year sentence

By ERIC TUCKER and SADIE GURMAN Associated Press

BALTIMORE — It was July 2015 when the FBI, scrambling to contain a surge in Islamic State group propaganda, first visited an Egyptian-American newspaper deliveryman in Maryland.

Agents needed to ask Mohamed Elshinawy why his phone number had surfaced in an investigation involving ISIS extremists and how he came to receive a $1,000 Western Union transaction from Egypt.

During hours of questioning, Elshinawy first suggested the money was from his mother. Next he said it was for an iPhone purchase for a friend. After being reminded it was a crime to lie to federal agents, he proceeded to tell a whole new story — that he had indeed received money from the Islamic State but that he was actually scamming the group instead of planning an attack.

It was a pivotal moment in a months-long FBI investigation. Elshinawy was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison on terrorism-related charges.

The investigation stretched from a modest townhome northeast of Baltimore across multiple continents, unveiled a shadowy network of illicit payments and shell companies, and revealed a direct link to an ISIS hacker killed in Syria just before Elshinawy's arrest. It also had a chilling twist: Officials say that among the roughly 150 IS-linked cases U.S. authorities have brought since 2014, this is the only prosecution they're aware of in which money was transmitted from IS group operatives abroad to someone in the U.S.

Law enforcement officials involved in the case spoke to The Associated Press about it in detail, recounting a high-intensity investigation that required constant surveillance, the scouring of money transfers and concern that funds sent to Elshinawy would fund an attack.

Brian Nadeau, a Baltimore FBI assistant special agent in charge, said the case raised a lot of red flags.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/an-atypical-terror-case-comes-to-close-with-20-year-sentence/478557023/