NEWARK – A Point Pleasant man appeared in federal court Friday to face charges that he planned to build and set off a pressure cooker bomb in New York City in support of ISIS, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey.
Gregory Lepsky, 20, was ordered held without bail after he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark and was given a court-appointed lawyer. Lepsky, who was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, did not enter a plea. His lawyer did not comment after the brief hearing.
“Go away,” a woman yelled Friday afternoon from the Lepsky home, a condominium complex on Route 88. “I told you to go away.”
Reached by phone, Lepsky’s mother, Luda, said that the charges are “not true.”
“This is my son, I feel I am going to die,” she said.
According to the federal complaint, Lepsky was arrested by Point Pleasant police on Feb. 21 after a family member told authorities Lepsky had a weapon and was threatening to kill the family’s dog.
Police responded, called Lepsky on his phone and asked him to exit the home. Lepsky eventually came out, bleeding from one of arm.
While paramedics were treating him, Lepsky, unprompted, told them he was planning to kill his mother, according to the federal complaint. He also pledged allegiance to Allah, the Arabic word for “God.”
Lepsky said he stabbed the family dog because the dog was “dirty” in his view of Islam.
Police entered Lepsky’s home and found the family dog alive, but with a large slash mark on its back.
Lepsky said he had joined ISIS and had plane tickets to Turkey, according to the complaint. His cellphone had the ISIS flag as its background photo.
After being taken to a local hospital, Lepsky told hospital staff his name was “Allah Abdel Rochmad” and he planned to detonate a pressure cooker bomb in a busy area of New York City to “kill as many people as possible,” the federal complaint said.
The complaint said Lepsky told a hospital worker that he had watched bomb-making videos online and that he was trying to be a suicide bomber before police caught him.
On Feb. 22, Lepsky told investigators he was going to buy black musket gunpowder to turn the pressure cooker he purchased into a bomb. Lepsky told authorities he regretted trying to kill his family dog because police wouldn’t have figured out his plan if he hadn’t.
On Feb. 24, investigators spoke with the family member who initially contacted police. That person said they first noticed changes in Lepksy in December when he began expressing opinions associated with radical Islam.
Investigators searched Lepsky’s computers and found evidence that Lepsky planned to build and detonate a bomb in support of ISIS, according to the complaint. Investigators also said they found social media messages in which Lepsky told others he planned to fight on behalf of ISIS and would drive “a bunch of explosives” to where the “enemies” were and blow himself up.
In the days before his arrest, Lepsky posted photos of himself in military fatigues with a pistol and semiautomatic weapon on Facebook, according to the complaint. He also sent messages to others saying he had converted to Islam with the intent of going to Syria.
In text messages to another family member, Lepsky sent pro-ISIS messages, including praise for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“I linked up with some guy I met on a chat website and he wants me to become Muslim and join ISIS,” Lepsky said in message to someone, the FBI reported. “I really wanna go join ISIS.”
He said in another Facebook message that his father was a Muslim from Chechnya, but stopped being religious when he moved to America.
“But I want to be different,” investigators said he wrote. “I want to be religious and grow up and be a martyr.”
Investigators additionally found thousands of internet searches about ISIS, terrorist attacks and beheadings.
“It’s just scary,” said Kim, a neighbor. She declined to give her last name.