Berkeley High School graduate sentenced for attempting to help Islamic State group

August Gugelmann/Courtesy

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Amer Sinan Alhaggagi, a graduate of Berkeley High School, was sentenced Tuesday for attempting to provide material support to people he believed were part of the Islamic State group, a foreign terrorist organization also known as IS or ISIS.

Alhaggagi was sentenced to 188 months — or more than 15 years — in prison, according to August Gugelmann, one of Alhaggagi’s attorneys. Gugelmann added that 24 of those months are for aggravated identity theft, in which Alhaggagi helped open social media accounts for several individuals he believed were part of ISIS. Alhaggagi was charged with three counts of identity theft in total, which included using a credit card with someone else’s name.

Gugelmann said Alhaggagi was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release after the prison sentence. According to the docket entry of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer, Alhaggagi will also have to pay a $400 special assessment fine and restitution of $5,273.10.

“It’s not the sentence we were hoping for,” Gugelmann said. “He’s a troll, a prankster. … He was trying to get people to react — it’s a pattern that remains throughout his life.”

In July 2018, Alhaggagi pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, using unauthorized devices and possessing device-making equipment — which he used to produce counterfeit credit cards — as well as aggravated identity theft.

Gugelmann added that the trial had mainly revolved around what Alhaggagi said to an undercover agent, which included pointing out several potential targets for attacks, such as UC Berkeley dorms and the Berkeley Hills. Alhaggagi also created a new plan to carry out a bombing after he had been arrested and shared his plans with other inmates, according to a Northern District of California Department of Justice press release.

“We have lost yet another young person to the allure of extremist ideology focused on hatred and violence,” said John F. Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco field office, in the press release. “This sentence serves as a reminder of how persistent and pervasive online radicalization has become.”

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.