Ohio prisoner accused of plotting judge assassination in al-Qaida case

TOLEDO, Ohio, July 7 (UPI) — A United Arab Emirates-born man imprisoned in Toledo, Ohio, accused of attempting to fund al-Qaida is now facing charges of attempting to kill the judge presiding over his case.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37, was indicted in 2015 on charges of conspiring with three others to travel to Yemen to provide thousands of dollars to Anwar Al-Awlaki, accused al-Qaida senior member and recruiter.

On Wednesday, a grand jury in Toledo returned a three-count indictment against Mohammad for allegedly soliciting someone to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary of the Northern District of Ohio — the judge assigned to Mohammad’s al-Qaida-linked case.

Mohammad, imprisoned at the Lucas County Corrections Center, faces additional charges of attempted first-degree murder of a federal officer, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and use of interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder for hire.

In April, Mohammad allegedly told an inmate he wanted to pay $15,000 for Zouhary to be kidnapped and killed. That inmate introduced Mohammad to an undercover FBI agent, according to the Department of Justice.

When the undercover agent asked Mohammad when he should carry out the killing, Mohammad allegedly said “The sooner would be good, you know.”

“Conspiring to have a judge killed is not the way to avoid being prosecuted — now Mohammad will be held accountable for additional serious federal charges,” FBI Cleveland Field Division Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony said in a statement. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to ensure the safety of those that uphold the rule of law. “

Mohammad allegedly arranged for his wife to pay the FBI agent a down payment of $1,000. The indictment said the agent met Mohammad’s wife on May 5 in Illinois and she gave him the money in a white envelope. On May 11, Mohammad allegedly said the rest of the money was making the journey from Dubai to Texas and ultimately to Chicago, where his wife would receive it and deliver it to who the couple believed was an assassin.

On May 16, the agent and Mohammad’s wife met and the agent showed her a picture that he said was of Zouhary’s dead body, according to the indictment. The agent said he needed the rest of the money owed to him and Mohammad’s wife allegedly said she would contact her husband before once again contacting who she thought was a gun-for-hire.

“This defendant not only attempted to have a federal judge murdered, but he did so to obstruct justice in a terrorism case against him,” U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a statement. “This prosecution seeks to hold the defendant accountable for attempting to victimize the judge and for trying to undermine our criminal justice system.”

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