A Washington, D.C., Metro Transit police officer who was a convert to Islam and once dressed up as Jihadi John for Halloween was charged on Wednesday with trying to provide material support to ISIS — the first time a law enforcement officer has been charged with an ISIS-related crime.
Virginia resident Nicholas Young, 36, who has served with the department since 2003, was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents.
Authorities allege in a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday that Young attempted to send money to ISIS through a mobile-based gift card using an unnamed messaging service the terror group utilizes for recruiting purposes. The transaction, which was redeemed by the FBI for $245, was made in July 2016.
Despite Wednesday’s arrest, the Department of Justice said there was never any threat to the public or a plot by Young to target the public transit system he was hired to protect.
Court documents paint the story of an individual with ties to suspicious individuals and with terrorist aspirations abroad.
The criminal complaint connects Young to two convicted Washington, DC-area terrorist sympathizers, Zachary Chesser and Amine El Khalifi.
Court document show federal investigators also questioned Young about trips he had taken to Libya in 2011. Young told FBI agents during an interview that he traveled twice to the North African nation to assist rebels attempting to overthrow the regime of then-dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
A baggage search by Customs and Border Protection on one of Young’s outbound trips revealed he had traveled with body armor, a Kevlar helmet, and “several other military-style items,” according to the criminal complaint.
Young is also alleged to have been in possession of a large cache of firearms, including numerous rifles and handguns at his home.
His alleged terrorist leanings came into the spotlight in 2015 when he admitted to interviewers at the Metro Transit Police Department that he dressed up as Jihadi John for Halloween in 2014. According to the criminal complaint, as part of his costume “Young stuffed an orange jumpsuit with paper to portray a headless hostage, and he carried that around with him through the party.”
During the same interview, Young admitted to having previously dressed up as a Nazi and to collecting Nazi memorabilia as well as possessing a tattoo of a German eagle on his neck.
Young is set to make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday afternoon. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“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 General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.
Young’s employment with the metro police was “terminated” Wednesday, according to a memo sent to metro staffers.