RICHMOND, Va. – Heather Elizabeth Coffman, 29, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was sentenced to 54 months in prison during a Monday morning hearing in federal court in downtown Richmond. Coffman’s sentencing came after she pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about Facebook posts and conversations she had about the terror group ISIS.
“Coffman admitted that beginning prior to June 2014 and continuing up through November 2014, she used several Facebook accounts under different names showing her support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL, referred to as ISIS by the defendant and within the case) cause,” according to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement.
Prosecutors said Coffman’s social media accounts revealed her “romantic involvement” with someone [N.A.] living outside of the United States.
In the months leading up to September 2014, Coffman and N.A. communicated almost daily via Facebook and other communications platforms. During their conversations, Coffman and N.A. explored options for N.A. to travel to Syria in order to fight for ISIS and die a “Shaheed,” referring to a martyr who dies for “jihad.”
Coffman cultivated online relationships with individuals she believed were ISIS facilitators operating in Syria. She put N.A. in contact with a facilitator to assist with his travel and eventual training with ISIS (with the Coffman’s financial assistance for travel) before he was to cross the border into Syria to fight with ISIS. This plan was moving forward when the couple’s relationship deteriorated in early September 2014, and N.A. backed out of the plans.
Coffman later communicated with others about her disappointment and expressed how she wished that the plan had succeeded.
According to the plea documents, Coffman admitted that she lied during the ongoing investigation on Nov. 13, 2014, when she told FBI agents that she did not know whether N.A. had talked to anybody else who supported ISIS, and that she did not know anybody N.A. had talked to when, as Coffman well knew, she had previously put N.A. in contact with ISIS fighters and N.A., in turn, had communicated with them to facilitate N.A.’s travel to Turkey to join ISIS.
Coffman faced a maximum of eight years in federal prison. After she is released from prison, Coffman will be under three years of supervised release.
The agent wrote that Coffman talked about making arrangements for a man she identified as her husband to train and fight with the Islamic State group in Syria. Coffman said the man, who is not named in court papers, backed out when the couple split up.
According to the criminal complaint, Coffman explained her frustration to the agent, saying, “I set him up with the brothers who gave him a contact name and number in Turkey to get him across the border when it was time for training,” she said, according to CBS News affiliate WTVR.
“I spoke to another brother about it who said he was shocked he is sitting around waiting in Macedonia and he is going to call the emir and fix that and get him to Turkey,” she continued. “But my account was disabled so I couldn’t follow through with that. But I think he was just joking us about going.”
Coffman offered to use her contacts with the group to make similar arrangements for the FBI agent and a fictitious friend, the affidavit said. The agent told Coffman that his friend wanted to fight with the terrorist group and become a “shaheed,” or martyr.
According to the charges, she posted an image with the captions “We are all ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” on one of the Facebook accounts.