SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Syrian-American man from San Diego pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to U.S. officials about knowing a member of the extremist Islamic State group and about participating in combat against the Syrian regime.
Mohamad Saeed, 24, entered his plea in federal court to two counts of making false statements involving international terrorism.
The statements were made in March to FBI and State Department officials during a terrorism-related interview at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, where Saeed had stopped on his way back from a trip to Syria.
U.S. authorities arrested him in April at his home in a San Diego suburb.
In his plea agreement, Saeed said he did know a member of the Islamic State in Iraq, and that while in Syria he fought alongside Al Nusrah, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization.
He had denied both things when questioned by U.S. officials.
"Lying to federal agents — particularly in a terrorism probe — is a crime that has the potential to influence an investigation or even jeopardize national security," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.
Prosecutor Michael Kaplan said he could not comment when asked why Saeed was charged only with making false statements and not terrorism since he acknowledged fighting alongside a terror group.
Saeed and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Saeed was born in Syria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September 2008. He initially told U.S. officials that he went to Syria to retrieve his mother and other family members.
After his arrest, prosecutors released photos of him allegedly holding an AK-47 in Syria.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys plan to jointly recommend the maximum sentence of eight years in prison.