McLEAN, Va. (AP) — A Kosovo citizen is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on charges that he hacked computers to expose U.S. service members' personal data on behalf of the Islamic State group.
Court records indicate Ardit Ferizi's plea hearing has been scheduled Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He initially pleaded not guilty to charges of providing material support to terrorists and identity theft.
Prosecutors say Ferizi, who was born in 1995, hacked the records of a private company and provided names, email passwords and phone numbers of more than 1,300 service members to the Islamic State last year. The Islamic State group then published the data on Twitter with a warning it would "strike at your necks in your own lands."
Ferizi was arrested in Malaysia in October and brought to the U.S. to face charges in January. When the charges were announced back in October, the Justice Department said the case was a first of its kind and "demonstrates our resolve to confront and disrupt ISIL's efforts to target Americans, in whatever form and wherever they occur."
Specifically, the charges allege that between June and August 2015, Ferizi allegedly provided the information to Islamic State group member Junaid Hussain, also known as Abu Hussain al-Britani. On Aug. 11, Hussain posted a tweet titled "NEW: U.S. Military and Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!" which contained a link to a 30-page document threatening service members and listing their personal data.
Geremy Kamens, the federal public defender in Alexandria representing Ferizi, declined comment on the case Monday.
The court listings do not make clear exactly what charge Ferizi will plead guilty to. Change-of-plea hearings typically indicate a plea bargain has been reached. The original charges filed against Ferizi carried a maximum prison term of 35 years.
Ferizi, known by hacking moniker "Th3Dir3ctorY," was leader of a group of ethnic Albanian hackers known as Kosova Hacker's Security, according to an FBI affidavit.