RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that a Fayetteville man connected to ISIS will serve two years in prison for attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization, and making false statements on his tax return.
Houcine Ghoul pleaded guilty to those charges on Nov. 13, 2017.
The DOJ said that, in 2015 and 2016, Ghoul underreported his income by at least $90,000 to avoid the payment of income taxes.
Ghoul entered the United States from Tunisia in 2001. After overstaying his tourist visa, he married a citizen, whom he later divorced, to become a legal, permanent resident, the release said.
Investigators said a confidential source sent the FBI screenshots from Ghoul’s Facebook page. In them, he indicates his support for ISIS. That in turn, led to surveillance of him.
In one conversation with a source, according to an affidavit, Ghoul said, “I support the Islamic State. I support anything the Islamic State does… Body and soul.”
The DOJ release said that, while Ghoul didn’t use his actual identity for online accounts used in relation with his ISIS activity, he did provide a self description. In it, he said he is “extremist, terrorist, tough, brain-washed, radical, I love explosions, booby trapping, beheading the enemy, and am among the supporters of establishing the religion with the sword.”
In another interaction, documented in the aforementioned affidavit, Ghoul watched an ISIS propaganda video with a source. According to the statement, on May 12, 2016, Ghoul told that source, “Go to Turkey.” He said he’d contact him there and that “the brothers will come for you.”
An informant said Ghoul told them he’d sent as many as 13 people overseas to support ISIS.
Ghoul was interviewed in February 2017 in relation with a citizenship application submitted in December 2014. The DOJ said he made a number of false statements, including that he had in no way associated with or been a member of any terrorist organization.
ABC reported that while Ghoul was illegally in the U.S., he fathered two children, but it’s not clear if they will remain in the U.S.
After his prison sentence, Ghoul will be deported to his native Tunisia. He will then pay $18,000 in restitution to the government for falsifying tax returns to receive benefits.
He also faked a marriage so he could receive immigration benefits – then apparently divorced the woman and married a Muslim.