FBI Uses Social Media to Catch Charlotte ISIS Suspect
Investigators say he was trying to recruit potential terrorists, and wanted to set up a compound to train them.
CHARLOTTE, NC — A man accused of supporting and recruiting for ISIS, who was living in Charlotte, was arrested by the FBI. They say he was planning an attack on U.S. soil.
Investigators say he was trying to recruit potential terrorists, and wanted to set up a compound to train them. The FBI used social media to take him down, and now he is facing up to 15 years behind bars if convicted.
The FBI has more than a thousand, open ISIS-related cases. One of those led to an arrest in Charlotte on Thursday, and some serious charges for 35-year-old Erick Jamal Hendricks.
An FBI affidavit says Hendricks conspired to provide material support or resources to ISIS, including weapons. And that his goal was to create a sleeper cell to be trained and housed at a secure compound, with the goal of staging an attack on U.S. targets, including members of the military.
“I just think it’s powerful, powerful illustration of remote radicalization and remote recruitment,” says former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker. “Clearly this guy had internet savvy.”
Hendricks was using social media to track potential members for his sleeper cell. He was identifying himself as Abu Harb, claiming he was a “recruiter” for ISIS, and that he already had 10 members signed up in his group.
The FBI identified Hendricks through an on-line informant, then used undercover employees to draw him out.
Neighbors we talked to in Hidden Valley say they are shocked to learn of the allegations against Erick Hendricks, who they say has been living in this house for about three weeks. They didn’t want to go on camera, but say that he and his family keep to themselves.
Hendricks also has ties to a terrorist attack in Texas in 2015. Former FBI assistant director Swecker says Hendricks was very active online.
“(He) wanted to join up, or wanted to share some ideology,” says Swecker. “He also reached out to someone in Ohio. So it looks like this guy cast a pretty wide net.”
The FBI says Erick Hendricks claimed to have land in Arkansas, and wanted to get “off the grid” to prepare for a violent confrontation with law enforcement.
It’s not clear what he was doing in Charlotte, but a family member we talked to outside the courtroom says he’s innocent.
“I think it’s just a matter of time,” says Hendricks’ step-son. “It’s a very big inconvenience. But I think he’ll be acquitted of everything.”