Federal Prosecutors: Metro Police Officer Tried to Support ISIS

The Virginia resident has been under scrutiny for the past eight years, prosecutors say

What to Know

  • A Metro Transit Police officer was arrested Wednesday morning on federal charges that he tried to support ISIS.
  • Nicholas Young, of Virginia, has been under scrutiny for the past eight years, court records say.
  • Federal prosecutors say he posed no credible threat to the Metro system.

A police officer with the Washington, D.C. Metro transit system has been arrested for trying to support ISIS, according to federal prosecutors.

Nicholas Young, of Fairfax, Virginia, is accused of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He was arrested at Metro headquarters Wednesday morning, NBC News reported. 

It's the first time a law enforcement officer has been accused of aiding the terrorist organization, authorities told NBC News national security reporter Ken Dilanian. 

Young, 36, met on 20 separate occasions with an FBI informant whom he believed was a man being radicalized, prosecutors said. He sent the man 22 digital gift card codes to be used with mobile messaging accounts that ISIS uses in recruiting, according to prosecutors. 

ISIS fighters and supporters communicate using encrypted apps, some of which charge fees, NBC News and Newsweek have reported. The FBI redeemed the gift card codes for $245.

Northern Virginia bureau reporter David Culver talks to neighbors of the Metro transit officer arrested in an ISIS investigation.

Young appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon for a brief hearing. The bearded man with chin-length hair and tattoos was expressionless as he stood in shackles. His pants appeared to be part of his Metro Transit Police uniform.

He received a court-appointed lawyer. Information on that lawyer was not available immediately.

NBC4’s Chris Lawrence and Pat Lawson Muse talk to NBC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pete Williams about the arrest of a Metro Transit Police officer who federal prosecutors say was trying to help ISIS.

A woman with tattoos and blonde hair in a braid appeared upset in the courtroom. Fighting tears, she refused to say what, if any, relationship she has with Young.

Law enforcement officials searched Young's home near Lee Highway and Fairfax County Parkway into Wednesday evening. Police tape blocked the street.

Young told an FBI informant that he was stockpiling weapons in his home, prosecutors say.

Agents removed dozens of boxes from Young's townhouse, including at least one designed to hold long guns.

Young posed no credible threat to the Metro system, Joshua Stueve, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, told NBC News. 

According to court records, Young has been under scrutiny since as far back as 2009, when Metro officials reported suspicious behavior to the FBI, NBC News reported.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld called the charges "profoundly disturbing." 

"[Metro Transit Police Department] Chief [Ronald] Pavlik and I have worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be brought to justice," Wiedefeld said in a statement.

Young's employment with Metro was terminated Wednesday morning after his arrest, Wiedefeld said. He began working for the agency in 2003.

The House Oversight Committee sent a letter to Wiedefeld demanding to know why Young was allowed to keep working during the investigation.

"It is unclear from the complaint and related media coverage about what safeguards, if any, were put in place by Metro Transit Police or WMATA to ensure Mr. Young was not a threat to the safety of transit system riders during the time he was under surveillance," the letter reads in part.

Young has been a longtime supporter of Islamic extremism and also has Nazi sympathies, prosecutors allege. He traveled to Libya in 2011 and told the FBI he fought with rebels seeking to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi, NBC News reported.

Law enforcement officials first interviewed Young in September 2010, in connection with his acquaintance Zachary Chesser.

Chesser, of Bristow, Virginia, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the terrorist group al-Shabab. The Muslim convert also told the creators of the television show "South Park" they risked death for mocking the Prophet Muhammad in an episode.

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Neighbors of Young's said they often saw him fixing his car and that he rarely acknowledged them. 

"It's just scary. You never know who your neighbors are," neighbor Dina Ahmad said. 

Young briefly appeared in court again Thursday afternoon where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

A bond hearing has been set for next Thursday.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story. 

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