News & Politics

Metro Police Officer Arrested on Charges of Attempting to Help ISIS

Photograph via iStock.

Federal authorities arrested a Metro Transit Police officer for allegedly trying to assist the terror group that calls itself the Islamic State. The officer, Nicholas Young, was arrested Wednesday morning after allegedly trying to buy technology that could then be furnished to ISIS to help it evade surveillance.

Young’s arrest was first reported by ABC News.

Young, a 12-year veteran of Metro’s police department, never actually contacted ISIS; instead interacting with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to ABC. Young, who lives in Fairfax, will appear in federal district court in Alexandria on Wednesday afternoon.

According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, Young told FBI agents he visited Libya twice in 2011 and met with the rebels who were fighting to overthrow then-dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Young packed body armor, a kevlar helmet, and several other “military-style” items on those trips, the affidavit reads.

Young, 36, first came to the FBI’s attention in 2010, when he was interviewed as an acquaintance of Zachary Chesser, a Fairfax County man who became radicalized after converting to Islam and later pleaded guilty to aiding al-Shabaab, a Somali terror group aligned with al-Qaeda. (Chesser, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence at a maximum-security facility in Colorado, also made threats against the creators of South Park over an episode that depicted Muhammad.)

Three years after his alleged Libya trips, Young began meeting with an FBI source posing as a US military reservist of Middle Eastern descent jaded by multiple deployments to Iraq. Young advised the informant on how to evade law-enforcement surveillance en route to joining up with ISIS, the affidavit claims. By fall 2014, the informant had convinced Young he had left the US military for ISIS, according to the document. Later, Young emailed the informant asking if ISIS commanders could help him send money to the terror group. By that point, federal authorities say, Young’s emails about supporting ISIS were being received by FBI agents posing as the informant.

“[U]nfortunately I have enough flags on my name that I can’t even buy a plane ticket without little alerts ending up in someone’s hands, so I imagine banking transactions are automatically monitored and will flag depending on what is going on,” Young wrote in a June 2015 email.

Metro Transit Police instigated the investigation into Young, according to a press release from Dana J. Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to and including today’s arrest,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement released by the transit agency. “Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me, and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform.”

Young was fired “immediately” upon his arrest Wednesday, Metro says.

The FBI interviewed Young last December, telling him the meeting concerned the whereabouts of the informant, whom Young believed had traveled to Turkey about a year earlier. The affidavit goes on to state that Young continued to attempt contacting the informant—actually FBI agents—through this summer. On July 18, Young allegedly communicated about buying gift cards and mobile-messaging accounts to help ISIS find new recruits.

Ten days later, Young allegedly sent 22 gift-card numbers. The FBI cashed them in for $245.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.