American Mom Pleads Guilty to Concealing Terrorism Financing
Moussa and Samantha El Hassani in 2013.
Samantha Elhassani, an American woman who traveled to the Islamic State with her family in 2015, has pleaded guilty to concealing financial support to her husband and brother-in-law to join the terrorist group.
Elhassani had been facing decades in prison for a felony charge of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, and a charge of aiding an individual to provide material support to ISIS. With the plea, the maximum sentence is 10 years.
For nearly three years, FRONTLINE and the BBC have been investigating Elhassani and her family’s journey for an upcoming documentary. Elhassani traveled with her husband Moussa, their two children at the time, and one of Moussa’s brothers to the Islamic State in 2015. After Moussa was killed fighting for the terrorist group, Elhassani fled in late 2017, and was captured by Kurdish forces. FRONTLINE and the BBC found her in Syria in December 2017, and spoke to Elhassani for her first interview. She said that she had been tricked into traveling into Syria.
But federal prosecutors tell another story. They say that Moussa Elhassani told his wife in November 2014 about his plans to join ISIS, which she knew was a terrorist organization.
From their home in Indiana, Samantha Elhassani made several trips to Hong Kong, carrying more than $30,000 in cash and gold, which she had melted down to look like jewelry, prosecutors said. They said she did not declare the valuables on customs forms, and was aware that her husband and her brother-in-law planned to use the funds to join ISIS.
“Samantha Elhassani pled guilty to providing financial support individuals who desired to support ISIS, a terrorist organization that has committed acts of violence against Americans,” said Thomas L. Kirsch II, US attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. “She traveled with her husband and brother-in-law to Syria, both of whom became ISIS fighters, putting the lives of her children at risk.”
When the Islamic State collapsed, Elhassani fled Syria with her children, and was captured by Kurdish forces, along with her young son and daughter, and two other children whom she had given birth to in Syria. Elhassani was brought back to the U.S. in July and criminally charged.
Elhassani remains in jail awaiting sentencing, which is currently scheduled for March 5.
—Joshua Baker contributed reporting.