A federal grand jury has indicted a New Jersey man and former mechanic for the U.S. Air Force with attempting to join the Islamic State group, or ISIS, in Syria, authorities revealed Tuesday. Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, was arrested in January after being deported from Egypt to the U.S., NBC News reported.
“Born and raised in the United States, Pugh allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said in a statement. He was also charged with trying to aid ISIS. Pugh is expected to plead not guilty, CNN reported.
Pugh flew to Turkey from Egypt Jan. 10 with the intent of crossing into Syria, allegedly to wage jihad, but was denied entry by Turkish authorities. He was sent back to Egypt where authorities became suspicious. He was flown to the U.S. Jan. 15 and arrested by the FBI the next day.
Pugh served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 1990, court documents showed. Before attempting to join ISIS, Pugh was working as an airplane mechanic in Kuwait but was fired from his job in December. Pugh’s last home address was in Neptune, New Jersey. His apparent LinkedIn profile said he last worked as a maintenance manager for the U.S. carrier Gryphon Airlines.
Despite having children in the U.S., Pugh stated several times on social media he never wanted to return to the United States, NBC News reported.
During his arrest, the FBI discovered Pugh had been carrying a cell phone containing a photo of a machine gun. His laptop revealed Pugh had viewed several ISIS propaganda videos online. His recent searches included “borders controlled by Islamic State” and “who controls Kobani,” a city in northern Syria where fighting between ISIS and Syrian Kurds erupted in October, ABC News reported. Pugh’s backpack contained clothes for camping, a solar-powered flashlight, two compasses and a solar-powered power source.