Two suburban Chicago men and Black Lives Matter supporters were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday for conspiring to support ISIS after a 19-month investigation showed they plotted to send a recruit and cell phone detonators to the terrorist organization.
Federal officials arrested Edward Schimenti and Joseph Jones, both 35, around 5 a.m. Wednesday following a lengthy undercover investigation that involved four federal agents and a fifth person cooperating with the bust.
According to the Chicago Sun Times:
The feds allegedly led Jones and Schimenti to believe they had gained access to an ISIS network designed to smuggle new recruits into Syria.
The men allegedly helped the cooperator obtain cellphones meant to be used as detonators, introduced him to an undercover fed they believed could get him overseas, and then drove the cooperator to O’Hare Airport to begin his journey on Friday. Once he left, the pair planned to deliver more cellphones via the cooperator’s “aunt,” records show.
Federal officials were drawn after discovering radical social media posts supporting terrorist activities, including images of the two posing with the ISIS flag at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, where they live, according to the 77 page criminal complaint.
An undercover FBI agent approached Jones at the Zion Police Department in September 2015 when he came in to the station for an interview about a murdered friend, then built a relationship with the two to vet their radical views.
Investigators allege Schimenti was plotting to attack the Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, and bragged about watching ISIS videos every night, including some he allegedly shared with investigators that showed infidels beheaded by a child soldier, drown in a cage, and blown to bits by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the news site.
When one undercover agent asked Jones if he considered joining ISIS, he allegedly said “every night and day.”
In recorded conversations, Schimenti allegedly discussed how he dreamed of dropping homosexuals off the Willis Tower and envisioned an ISIS flag “on top of the White House,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
He also attended protests with the Lake County Black Lives Matter Movement, including a 2015 rally for a man killed by Zion police.
“I remember him – we had to take the mike away from him because he was too radical,” said Clyde McLemore, chairman of the group. “In his speech he said ‘kill the police’ and talked about blowing up the police station.”
Local Muslim leaders are also familiar with the two men, according to the Tribune.
“We had discussions about philosophy of Islam, and they leaned toward a more militant form of Islam,” said Junard Latif, coordinator for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community mosque in Zion. “But I had no idea they would do anything like this … I can’t say enough how sad it is that people are drawn to this type of action.”
Both Jones and Schimenti were arraigned Wednesday in federal court in Chicago, where they told a U.S. Magistrate they work at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Schimenti’s mother, Joni Schimenti, insisted at the hearing that her son “is no terrorist,” the Tribune reports.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Eddie’s not like that.”
Jones’ family said the same, though his father acknowledged that he raised his son a Christian and he later converted to Islam.
“We didn’t know he was radicalized like that,” Wayne Jones told the Tribune. “We did not raise our children like that, and we don’t believe in that.”
Jones’ grandmother, 72-year-old Earline McCullough, was also shocked to learn her grandson allegedly conspired to support ISIS.
“I am surprised,” she said. “Because I just saw Joe not too long ago, some months ago, when he came down to visit with his wife and his children, and I fixed dinner for them.”