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Indiana woman gets more than 6 years in federal prison for financing terrorism

Posted at 9:08 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 21:08:43-05

A former Elkhart woman has been ordered to spend more than 6 years in federal prison on charges she financed terrorism.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, a judge ordered Samantha Marie Elhassani, also known as Samantha Sally, to serve 78 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to financing terrorism.

"Once again, the Justice Department has held accountable an individual who turned her back on her country to support a terrorist organization," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said. "As Elhassani admitted, she made multiple trips to Hong Kong to smuggle tens of thousands in cash and gold, knowing that the funds would be used to support ISIS in Syria. We repatriated Elhassani from Syria because every nation is responsible for holding its citizens accountable and addressing the future threat they may pose. We will not stop."

According to court records, Elhassani was informed in November 2014 by her husband that he and his brother wanted to travel to Syria to join ISIS, which she knew at the time was a terrorist organization. Between November 2014 and April 2015, Elhassani helped the two men join ISIS by making multiple trips to Hong Kong and transporting more than $30,000 in cash and gold from the U.S. and depositing it in a safe deposit box in Hong Kong.

Prosecutors said Elhassani melted down the gold to look like jewelry and did not disclose the cash and gold on customs declaration forms. At the time Elhassani transported the money and gold, prosecutors said she knew that her husband and brother-in-law had expressed an interest in joining ISIS and that they intended to use these resources to support ISIS.

"Today's sentence serves as a strong reminder that the FBI will never relent in ensuring those who abandon their country to support a violent terrorist organization, such as Ms. Elhassani did, will be held accountable and justice will be served," FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said. "Adding to her betrayal, Ms. Elhassani willfully chose to put her young children's lives at risk through her selfish actions, exposing them to an atmosphere of violence and hatred. She knew exactly what she was doing and why. She was an active participant in this heinous activity and is now facing the consequences."

Prosecutors said during her last trip to Hong Kong in late March 2015, Elhassani obtained tactical gear, including rifle scopes and image-stabilized binoculars. From there, Elhassani and her family, including her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, departed for Istanbul, Turkey, and entered ISIS-controlled territory in Syria sometime in or around June 2015, prosecutors said.