A Williamsburg man pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges for telling an undercover agent he wanted to commit jihad, then attempting to join the U.S. military.
Shivam Patel, 28, pleaded guilty Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to passport fraud and making false statements, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Patel was teaching in China during the summer of 2016 when he flew to the Kingdom of Jordan – a sovereign Arab state – and was arrested, detained and sent back to the U.S., according to an arrest affidavit.
After his arrest in August, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Patel’s parents, who said their son had converted to Islam “several years ago” and had become “obsessed,” the affidavit says.
Patel became upset with the way he believed China treated Muslims. He then bought a plane ticket to Jordan, and told his parents he wanted to go to Mecca.
Patel’s parents, who also lived in Williamsburg, didn’t hear from him after he traveled to Jordan.
FBI agents gained consent to search the Patels’ house, and searched through multiple computers and cell phones. The search revealed several copies of Dabiq magazine, which is published by ISIS, and other ISIS-related material and propaganda, the affidavit says.
Patel started a conversation with an undercover agent on Sept. 2 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport after the Jordanians had deported him. He said he’d recently gotten out of Jordanian prison and wanted to commit jihad and shahid.
He also praised violent terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice and Orlando, but said his jihad might not be violent, the affidavit says.
Patel spoke later that day to an undercover FBI Task Force agent at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He discussed the Orlando nightclub shooting and told the agent he hoped the agent didn’t feel bad for the victims, documents say.
After Patel returned to Williamsburg, he applied to both the U.S. Army and the Air Force, as well as for jobs in correctional facilities, probation offices, fire departments and police departments.
On a December 2016 application, he lied, saying he had only traveled abroad once in the past seven years to India – omitting any information about his travels to China and Jordan, according to a criminal indictment.
When a military recruiter asked to see his passport, which would have shown he’d been to China and India, Patel applied for a new passport.
Documents say Patel lied and said he accidentally threw away his passport.
Patel was arrested in July 2017 after an investigation. At that time, authorities found his old passport, with proof he had to traveled to Jordan and China.
Patel faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 4.