Local man sentenced for lying about ISIS

Posted at 3:06 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 18:15:47-04

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego man who made false statements to FBI and State Department officials during a terrorism-related interview at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey was sentenced Monday to eight years in federal prison.

Mohamad Saeed Kodaimati, 25, pleaded guilty last October to one count of false statements involving international terrorism.

Kodaimati admitted that he lied in March 2015 when he said he did not know any members of Islamic State in Iraq, a designated foreign terrorist organization known as ISIS; that he falsely claimed that while in Syria he was never involved with Al Nusrah, also a foreign terrorist organization; and that he again lied when he said that while in Syria he had never engaged in combat or fired a weapon at anyone.

In his plea agreement, Kodaimati admitted that he knew a member of ISIS, and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah fighters.

In sentencing Kodaimati, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia said the eight-year term was necessary to deter others who might be tempted to lie when national security is at stake.

"The defendant deliberately hid his connections to terrorists and the fact that he participated in combat in Syria," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "This is an appropriately severe sentence that underscores the very serious nature of a crime that has the potential to jeopardize our national security."

Authorities said Kodaimati was born in Syria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September 2008. In December 2012, Kodaimati traveled from San Diego to Istanbul and was in Syria and Turkey until his return to the United States.

In March 2015, the defendant met with an FBI agent and a State Department agent at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, where he made the false statements.

Kodaimati eventually returned to San Diego on March 29, 2015. He was arrested in Rancho Bernardo last April 22.