Charlotte man charged with conspiring to help ISIS, feds say

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte man was arrested Thursday morning on a federal complaint charging him with conspiring to provide material support to the terror group ISIS.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Ohio, 35-year-old Erick Hendricks tried to recruit people to train together and conduct terrorist attacks in the United States on behalf of ISIS.

According to the complaint, in June of last year, someone was arrested in Ohio after trying to buy an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition from an undercover law enforcement officer.

CLICK HERE to read the entire affidavit

That person had pledged allegiance to ISIS on social media and made statements expressing interest in conducting attacks in the United States.

Hendricks had gotten in touch with that individual over social media to recruit him in the spring of 2015, according to the complaint.

Hendricks allegedly told that person that he “needed people” and wanted to meet in person, that there were several “brothers” located in Texas and Mexico, that he was attempting to “get brothers to meet face to face” and that he wanted “to get brothers to train together.”

According to the complaint, that person said that Hendricks tested his religious knowledge and commitment, inquiring about his willingness to commit jihad, to die as a martyr and his desire to enter jannah (paradise).

(Erick Hendricks)

The individual allegedly believed that Hendricks and the “brothers in Texas and Mexico” may have been responsible for a thwarted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015, and therefore they decided to stay away from social media for a period following the attack to minimize detection by law enforcement.

Hendricks also allegedly communicated over social media with several other people, including an undercover FBI employee.

According to the complaint, on April 16, 2015, Hendricks instructed the FBI employee to download the document “GPS for the Ghuraba in the U.S.” which included a section entitled “Final Advice” which advocated that “brothers and sisters” should not allow themselves to go to jail.

This section also allegedly encouraged Muslims to die as a martyr, to “boobie trap your homes,” to “lay in wait for them” and to “never leave your home without your AK-47 or M16.”

Hendricks allegedly told another person that his goal was to create a sleeper cell to be trained and housed at a secure compound that would conduct attacks in the United States. He mentioned that potential targets included military members whose information had been released by ISIS and the woman who organized the “Draw Prophet Mohammad contest,” and he claimed to have 10 members signed up for his group, according to allegations in the complaint.

On April 23, 2015, Hendricks allegedly used social media to contact Elton Simpson, who, along with Nadir Hamid Soofi, was inspired by ISIS and launched the attack on the “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland.

Simpson and Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard, before Garland police returned fire and killed them both.

According to the complaint, Hendricks also connected the FBI employee with Simpson via social media, communicated with the FBI employee about the contest in Garland and directed the FBI employee to go to the contest.

Hendricks allegedly said: “If you see that pig (meaning the organizer of the contest) make your ‘voice’ heard against her.”

Hendricks first appearance in federal court in uptown Charlotte Thursday morning was brief. He left covering his face and wearing the long white robe he was arrested in.

Several of Hendricks' family members were in court as well, and after the hearing his stepson told Channel 9 that the FBI has the wrong man.

When asked why he thought that, the stepson said, “Well, he is Muslim, so...”

The arrest is a case of mistaken identity, his stepson said.

“I think it's a matter of time. It's a very big inconvenience, but I think he'll be acquitted of everything,” he said.

If convicted, Hendricks faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing would be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Hendricks will have his next federal court appearance on Tuesday.

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