Two Illinois men were arrested Wednesday on a federal complaint charging them with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to an associate joining ISIS on the battlefield in Syria. According to the complaint, the men had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, advocated for terrorism on social media, and even shared photos of themselves in terrorist get-ups holding the Islamic State flag at the Illinois Beach State Park in suburban Zion.
Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti, both 35 and from Zion, were charged with “conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).” Jones is also known as “Yusuf Abdulhaqq” and Schimenti goes by the name of “Abdul Wali.”
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) April 12, 2017
According to the charges, the investigation began in September 2015, “when an undercover agent posing as a motorist arrested in a traffic-related incident approached Jones at the Zion Police Department, where Jones was being interviewed about the recent slaying of a friend.”
That agent introduced Jones and Schimenti to other undercover agents posing as ISIS supporters, including an informant who they believed was planning to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State. Jones and Schimenti worked out with the purported jihadist at a Zion gym to help get him into combat shape. They also bought cell phones at a local store, thinking that they would be used as bomb detonators, according to the complaint.
On Friday they dropped him off at O’Hare International Airport, believing he was traveling to the Middle East to kill “infidels” in the name of Islamic State.
“Drench that land with they, they blood,” Schimenti allegedly said as he and Jones saw the man off at the airport.
What Jones and Schimenti didn’t know was that the purported Islamic State fighter was actually a U.S. informant and that the FBI had been investigating them for nearly two years after red-flagging social media posts supporting terrorist activities, according to prosecutors.
Agents arrested Jones and Schimenti, both 35, on Wednesday morning on a criminal complaint charging them with conspiring to provide material support and resources to Islamic State, also known as ISIS, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. They are scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Chicago at 3 p.m.
Reached by phone Wednesday at their St. Louis-area home, Jones’ parents expressed shock over the charges, saying their son had been working as a dietary cook and took care of his family, including a wife and young son. They said they were aware their son, who was raised Christian, had converted to Islam but didn’t know “to what degree.”
“We didn’t know he was radicalized like that,” said his father, Wayne Jones. “We did not raise our children like that, and we don’t believe in that.”
Jones’ maternal grandmother, Earline McCullough, 72, of St. Louis, said Jones had been an Army “brat” in his youth — his father served in the Army for more than 16 years — and that the family lived in Europe and elsewhere during that time. Jones is one of three siblings, she said.
“I am surprised,” McCullough 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.”
Schimenti apparently had a penchant for sick Islamic State murder porn, “from beheading videos to recordings of mass executions.”
In one clip shown by Schimenti to an undercover informant, a young boy beheads a prisoner whose hands are tied behind his back, according to the complaint. Other videos Schimenti promoted showed prisoners drowned in a cage dropped by crane into a swimming pool, detainees loaded into a car that was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and others being “dismembered” when explosives wrapped around their necks are detonated, the charges allege.
The charges in the complaint are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, the Department of Justice says.