Homeland Security

D.C. Metro Transit Cop Charged with Trying to Aid ISIS

Passengers wait on the platform before boarding a train at the U Street Metro Station in Washington in March 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — A 13-year veteran of the police force charged with security of the Beltway’s Metro system has been arrested on charges that he tried to assist ISIS.

The complaint details a years-long investigation into the cop as he remained employed with the transit police.

Nicholas Young, 36, of Fairfax, Va., was taken into custody this morning at police headquarters and is scheduled to appear before a magistrate in the the Eastern District of Virginia this afternoon.

According to the FBI, law enforcement first interviewed Young in September 2010 as an acquaintance of his, Zachary Chesser, had been arrested.

Chesser, known for threatening the creators of the South Park series after they depicted a cartoon Muhammad, admitted that year to trying to aid Al-Shabaab. For a short time, the Charlottesville native worked as a caretaker at the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax. He’s now incarcerated at the Supermax prison in Colorado.

“Over the next several years, Young allegedly had numerous interactions with undercover law enforcement personnel and an FBI confidential human source (CHS) regarding his knowledge of and interest in terrorism-related activity. Many of these interactions were recorded,” stated an FBI press release. “Law enforcement also interviewed Young’s family and co-workers. In 2011, Young met with an undercover law enforcement officer, and several of these meetings included another of Young’s acquaintances, Amine El Khalifi, who later pleaded guilty to charges relating to his plan to conduct a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building in 2012.”

The criminal complaint states that in March 2011 Young told an undercover officer that he “used to torture animals as a child” and “despised the FBI,” musing that someone with his skills “could attack an FBI establishment.”

“Young said that firearms are not allowed to be brought into the federal courthouse in Alexandria, but described a method that Young could bring multiple guns into the courthouse undetected in order to distribute them to others inside.”

The affidavit filed with the criminal complaint alleges that Young traveled to Libya in 2011 with “military-style items” and in 2014 met with the FBI informant, who was posing “as a U.S. military reservist of Middle Eastern descent who wanted to travel overseas to join ISIL,” about 20 times.

Young allegedly gave the informant tips on how to travel without raising suspicion from law enforcement and how to be discreet about his plans. The source pretended that he left the country to join ISIS, and further email communications between Young and the source were actually between Young and undercover FBI officials.

The Metro transit cop allegedly sent an email in June 2015 asking how to sent money to ISIS “Unfortunately I have enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands, so I imagine banking transactions are automatically monitored and will flag depending on what is going on,” Young wrote.

The FBI interviewed Young in December, pretending like they were trying to figure out the whereabouts of the informant.

On July 28, Young sent $245 worth of mobile-messaging gift card codes to the FBI posing as the informant, allegedly writing: “Respond to verify receipt . . . may not answer depending on when as this device will be destroyed after all are sent to prevent the data being possibly seen on this end in the case of something unfortunate.”

Young faces up to 20 years behind bars. It’s the first time a law enforcement officer in the U.S. has been charged with terrorism.

His Fairfax neighborhood was blocked off with crime-scene tape today as police searched his townhome.

Paul J. Wiedefeld, the general manager and CEO of D.C.’s Metro system, said in a statement that “since I received my first briefing on this matter, [Metro Transit Police] Chief [Ronald] Pavlik and I have worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be brought to justice.”

“Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to and including today’s arrest,” Wiedefeld said. “Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform.”

Pavlik added that the investigation began “with concerns that were reported by the Metro Transit Police Department, and it reinforces that, as citizens, we all have a duty to report suspicious activity whenever and wherever it occurs.”

Wiedefeld also told Metro colleagues that Young has been fired “effective immediately.”