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On the last day of a year in which an unprecedented number of people have been charged with crimes linked to terrorism, federal authorities announced the arrest of a 25-year old man from western New York State for allegedly attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Emanuel Lutchman, of Rochester, New York, was arrested Dec. 30 for allegedly swearing allegiance to ISIL and claiming responsibility for an upcoming attack.
He could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
“He planned to kill innocent civilians on New Year’s Eve in the name of the terrorist organization,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. “Thankfully, law enforcement was able to intervene and thwart Lutchman's deadly plans.”
Law enforcement has been criticized in the past for allegedly using informants with problematic histories to help individuals under suspicion devise and attempt criminal activities and for appearing to target suspects who have a history of mental illness or are otherwise vulnerable.
The case of Emanuel Lutchman appears on the surface to raise some of those concerns and to hinge on the work of at least three confidential informants.
According to the criminal complaint, Lutchman was communicating with an “overseas individual” — a “brother” with ISIL. Because Lutchman did not have someone who could vouch for him with the organization, he would have to “prove” himself and could do this by planning an operation on New Year’s Eve or “whenever he can, and kill 1,000,000s [millions] of kuffar,” or nonbelievers.
Lutchman indicated that he wanted to target a club or bar and said he and one of the individuals identified in the complaint as a confidential source could “sneak a bomb” in or could kidnap a “couple of people and kill them,” the complaint said.
Lutchman said he “does not have any funds,” although he said he could buy masks for disguise for $5. One of the confidential sources though spent $40 on supplies for the operation, including “ski masks, zip-ties, 2 knives, a machete, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves,” the complaint said.
Confidential sources or informants provided “reliable” information in the case, the complaint said. The footnotes to the complaint noted, however, that one confidential source identified was paid $19,784 by law enforcement.
A second source, the person who bought the supplies, was paid $7,400. This source has a prior felony conviction and a prior misdemeanor conviction, but his information was said to be “corroborated” and “accurate.”
A third source told Lutchman he would not take part in the operation, which made Lutchman think about “stopping the operation cuz (sic) I was trusting” this source, the complaint quoted Lutchman as saying.
Lutchman, a Muslim convert, has a criminal history dating back to 2006, including serving about five years in prison for robbery. He also has previous arrests related to mental health issues.
It remains to be seen if Lutchman’s arrest was “the excellent work” of law enforcement, as U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York said. Or if this is a case of the government overstating the threat that Lutchman posed.