The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment today revealing a Tunisian man named Ahmed Abassi was charged with visa fraud designed to help him remain in the United States to build an Al Qaeda-linked terror cell.
According to the indictment, Abassi made a false statement on a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization by saying he, "intended to remain in the United States for employment, when in fact he sought to remain in the United States to facilitate an act of international terrorism."
"As alleged, Ahmed Abassi had an evil purpose for seeking to remain in the United States-–to commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here, and to use this country as a base to support the efforts of terrorists internationally," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Abassi, who previously resided in Canada, allegedly traveled to the United States in March and while here he was "under surveillance by law enforcement agents at all times" and "maintained regular contact with an FBI undercover officer." Abassi also allegedly met with Chiheb Esseghaier, who "was previously radicalized by Abassi." Esseghaier was arrested along with another man April 22 for allegedly plotting to target a train that traveled between Toronto and New York City. Abassi was arrested that same day.
During conversations with Esseghaier and the undercover agent, the U.S. Attorney's office said Abassi allegedly "discussed his desire to engage in terrorist acts against targets in the United States and other countries, and his intention to provide support and funding to organizations engaged in terrorist activity–including the al-Nusrah Front, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of State as an alias for al-Qaeda in Iraq–and to recruit other individuals for terrorist plots." To facilitate his "efforts to recruit others for terrorist plots," Abassi also allegedly talked about getting "immigration documents to remain in the United States" purportedly to work for a company the undercover agent said they were affiliated with.
Read the full indictment against Abassi below: