PLANO — A Plano couple whose adult sons traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS are headed to federal prison after lying to the FBI about the activities of their children.
Sumaiya Ali was sentenced to 30 months in prison, while her husband, Mohommad Hasnain Ali, was sentenced to 12 months plus one day. Both paid a $5,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release after prison.
The couple were sentenced during back-to-back hearings in U.S. District Court in Plano on Tuesday. They had pleaded guilty last year to making false statements regarding international terrorism.
“I apologize for my actions and thank the court for considering the plea deal,” Sumaiya Ali, 49, said before District Judge Marcia A. Crone pronounced her sentence.
Mohommad Hasnain Ali, 58, issued a similar apology moments later.
Their defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing. Sumaiya Ali must report to authorities on Feb. 27 to start serving her sentence. Her husband is required to report to prison on June 3, after their daughter finishes the school year in Plano ISD.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas and the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
“We will remain vigilant against those who support terrorism and those who attempt to shield supporters of terrorism from scrutiny,” U.S. Attorney Alan R. Jackson said in a statement Tuesday.
According to court documents, the couple’s adult sons, Arman and Omar Ali, traveled from Egypt to Syria sometime between October and December 2014 to join and fight for ISIS.
Sumaiya Ali communicated regularly with them about their whereabouts and desire to fight for ISIS. On Feb. 21, 2014, she told Omar Ali to “Do what u need to do.” He responded, “[O]k then going to Syria it is,” the documents state.
Her sons sent her a travel itinerary and kept her posted on their progress to Syria, which she shared with her husband. The brothers also communicated with their parents about their efforts for ISIS.
In an October 2014 email from Arman Ali to his brother and his father, he included a link to a video of an Islamic State military parade in Libya.
That same month, Omar Ali emailed his brother and mother. It stated in part, “Allah tells the Muslim to fight, kill and exile ‘those who wage war against Allah or His messenger or cause corruption,’ and only makes an exception for those who ‘return repenting (accept Islam) BEFORE being apprehended/overtaken.'”
In March 2015, Arman Ali sent his father an email from Syria: “Things are heating up here, and I can’t guarantee me or Omar will be there in 2 months… I’ve been to the hospital every day with brothers from my group. Close friends have died, too many injured. Me and Omar are perfectly fine right now, but soon we may not be.”
Omar Ali told his mother in March 2015 that he was trying to transfer to an “English-speaking battalion,” documents state. He stated it wasn’t difficult to get into the battalion but “they [ISIS] made it forbidden to change the state you’re stationed in,” documents state.
But when the couple were interviewed by federal agents in May 2015, they both denied that their sons were in Syria. They claimed they were in Egypt even though they knew their sons had gone to Syria.
Sumaiya Ali insisted her sons “are very reserved” and would never be involved with ISIS, according to court documents.
Mohommad Hasnain Ali told agents “his sons were peaceful, liked to study” and that “he has never known his sons to be involved with terrorist organizations,” court documents stated.
Arman and Omar Ali grew up in Plano. Each attended Rice Middle School and Plano Senior High School. Arman attended the University of Texas in Austin from fall 2008 to spring 2011 but did not earn a degree, school officials said.
Arman is 27 years old, and his younger brother is 26.
Federal officials filed a criminal complaint in March 2017 against the brothers, alleging each provided material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.
Their cases remain open as the brothers’ whereabouts are unclear. Their parents have not heard from them, and it’s not known whether they are still alive.