Feds: Chicago pair wanted to fly ISIS flag atop White House

An ABC7 I-Team Report
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two far north suburban men are facing federal terrorism charges in Chicago after they were arrested Wednesday morning by the FBI for allegedly conspiring to provide ISIS support.

Zion, Illinois resident Joseph D. "Yusuf Abdulhaqq" Jones and Edward "Abdul Wali" Schimenti appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon. Federal search warrants were executed on Jones' Zion residence Wednesday morning.

"This morning, 5 o'clock, we heard a loud explosion, we thought it was a bomb going off but they were breaking into that house," said Lolita Watkins, neighbor.

CLICK HERE to read the full criminal complaint

Schimenti was "gathering the courage to launch some sort of attack at Naval Station Great Lakes," states FBI agent Cassandra B. Carnright.

In a conversation secretly recorded by the FBI, Schimenti allegedly stated he was considering attacking the Naval graduation that takes place on "Buckley." The Great Lakes Navy base, where every U.S. Navy recruit is trained, is located on Buckley Street in North Chicago.

According to federal court records, the case began in late 2015 when Jones and Schimenti, both 35 years old, became involved with a pair of undercover FBI agents and a federal informant.

PHOTOS: Evidence presented in the federal criminal complaint

Investigators say that Jones and Schimenti believed all three associates were ISIS backers. Prosecutors say Jones and Schimenti are both U.S. citizens who pledged their allegiance to ISIS and advocated frequently on social media for violent extremism.

Jones and Schimenti plotted to stage bomb attacks on behalf of ISIS according to investigators, and last Friday drove the secret informant to O'Hare Airport for his travel to Syria. "Drench that land with they, they blood," Schimenti told the undercover operative according to federal authorities.

The criminal complaint made public about noon on Wednesday is unusual because it includes numerous photographs of the men charged. Federal prosecutors in Chicago rarely release pictures of newly-charged defendants, especially photographs that are considered potential evidence in the case.

Among the pictures in the complaint are ones apparently taken at the Illinois Beach State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Zion. They purport to depict Jones and Schimenti holding ISIS flags. "Abdul Wali" Schimenti, is heard on FBI undercover tape saying he would like to see the ISIS flag "on top of the White House" according to investigators.

Investigators say numerous meetings were held to plan and plot ISIS attacks and involvement in the terrorist group, meeting that allegedly occurred in Waukegan, Zion, Bridgeview, North Chicago, Highland Park and Chicago. Investigators say the men also underwent physical training for ISIS attacks with Schimenti allegedly saying exercises would "make you good, you know, in the battlefield."

"Eddie is no terrorist, no, he is not like that," said Joni Schimenti, mother.

Schimenti's mother appeared in federal court Wednesday, along with Jones' relatives who preferred not to speak.

Jail records list Schimenti at 340 lbs. and investigators said he recently started working out to train for the battlefield. A brief court appearance for both men wrapped up a court appearance at the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday afternoon, and were both ordered held until a detention hearing Monday.

"Those people, we never noticed anything out of the ordinary," Watkins said.

Both suspects were working full time, according to what they told the judge in court. Jones claimed to work as a "clerk in the culinary department" of a cancer hospital, and Schimenti in a customer service position at a commodity company.

While the case was investigated by the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies that make up the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, prosecutors say Zion Police provided assistance.
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