The Williamsburg man wanted to join a “real Muslim Army” but was arrested in Jordan last year when he flew there in search of like-minded people, according to court documents.
So what did he do instead?
Apply for jobs with local police and fire departments, correctional facilities and even the U.S. Army and Air Force.
“He wanted to blend into society and do something ‘glorious,’ ” FBI Special Agent Thomas Pembroke wrote in an affidavit unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court.
Shivam Patel, who investigators say may have started in recent months to back off his support of the Islamic State terror group, was arrested Thursday on one count of making materially false statements on applications to join the military. The 27-year-old will remain incarcerated until at least Tuesday, when a detention hearing is set in Norfolk.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
According to the affidavit, Patel – who converted to Islam several years ago – traveled to China in July 2016 to teach English. While there, however, he expressed displeasure to his father about how that country treated Muslims.
His employer arranged for Patel to fly back to Virginia on Aug. 23, but he chose to travel to Jordan, the affidavit said. He was quickly arrested and eventually deported, but it’s unclear why.
Patel’s parents spoke with the FBI about their son after learning he was in Jordanian custody. They said he had become “obsessed with Islam.”
With the parents’ permission, investigators searched Patel’s room and computers. They found evidence he had researched how to beat a polygraph, downloaded three copies of an online magazine produced by the Islamic State and searched for how to join the group, the affidavit said.
On Sept. 2, Patel boarded a flight to Chicago.
That same day, he spoke with an “undercover employee” about how he wanted to become a martyr. He suggested his jihad might not be violent but also praised terrorist attacks that had taken place in Paris, Nice and Orlando, the affidavit said. Patel also expressed an admiration for Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The FBI interviewed Patel at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and he talked about his admiration for the Islamic State but also said he was not sure about some of the group’s methods. He also expressed support for terrorist attacks in Paris and Orlando.
Patel – whose criminal record in Williamsburg appears to consist only of two traffic violations – was not taken into custody. Instead, he was allowed to travel to Detroit, where he “approached an FBI Task Force Officer … who was dressed in plainclothes,” the affidavit said.
Patel asked the officer whether he could use his phone to call his father. He then recounted his trip to Jordan, his arrest and his introduction to a man who told him how to speak to law enforcement and avoid trouble.
Patel also discussed the Orlando nightclub shooting orchestrated by Omar Mateen and said he hated gay people.
It is unclear why Patel approached the task force officer and opened up to him.
The following day, Patel spoke to a “confidential human source” in Detroit. During that conversation, Patel expressed a desire to do something “bigger, better and more purposeful,” like dying for Allah.
The affidavit said he feared making his parents sad, though.
The day after that, Patel spoke with the source again about his desire to see a holy war between Muslims and non-Muslims. He sang an Islamic State fight song to the source and recalled making a replica of the group’s flag, which he wanted to replace his neighbor’s American flag with.
Patel moved back to Williamsburg on Sept. 6 and applied for jobs with the military, as well as some paramilitary organizations.
He contacted the source again on Sept. 23 and expressed support for Maj. Nidal Hasan, who fatally shot 13 soldiers in 2009 while serving at Fort Hood in Texas.
Patel said he viewed the attack as “completely justified,” and he believed Hasan died a martyr.
The charge against Patel stems from statements he made in December 2016 while trying to join the Army through the Officer Candidate Selection process. The affidavit said Patel did not disclose his trips to China or Jordan when asked about his foreign travel.
He claimed he had not gone anywhere outside the United States in the past seven years, except for a family trip to India in 2011-12, the affidavit said.
Before Patel signed the application, an Army recruiter asked him specifically about that portion of it, the affidavit said, and reminded him false information could result in criminal charges.
Patel also met with an Air Force recruiter in January. He again failed to mention his trips to China and Jordan.