KEY POINTS

  • 28-year-old Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. was sentenced to 19 years in prison after attempting to help ISIS in planning an attack on the United States
  • Hester's was charged in a criminal complaint in 2017 after he attempted to provide material support to ISIS 
  • What he believed to be a deadly attack in the name of ISIS in the U.S. was actually an undercover operation by the FBI to expose his involvement

A 28-year-old Missouri native was sentenced to 19 years in prison Wednesday after he attempted to help a known terrorist group to wreck havoc in the United States.

In a February 21, 2017 news release by the Department of Justice, Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr., a U.S. citizen hailing from Columbia, Missouri was initially charged in a criminal complaint with “attempting to provide material support” to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord said that Hester attempted to help “in what he believed to be a deadly attack” in the name of ISIS when all the while he was actually talking to an undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Terrified Iraqi children protect themselves from the cold after they're taken outside their house during a pre-dawn raid in a suburb of Baquba November 16, 2003. [Looking for members of a suspected terrorist cell who attacked coalition forces, troops
Terrified Iraqi children protect themselves from the cold after they're taken outside their house during a pre-dawn raid in a suburb of Baquba November 16, 2003. [Looking for members of a suspected terrorist cell who attacked coalition forces, troops of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division (Task Force Ironhorse) detained several Iraqi men after shots were fired at an assault team during an early morning operation.] Reuters

Following his unrelated arrest and release by posting a bond on October 2016, undercover agents continued to monitor Hester and maintained regular communication through an encrypted messaging app and text messages.

Both parties were also able to meet in person on several occasions.

Hester's arrest in February 17, 2017 came after he openly expressed his involvement and intent to “engage in acts of violent jihad” against the U.S. on social media and during an arranged meeting with the undercover FBI agent.

“He believed he was part of an ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack that would result in the deaths and injuries of many innocent victims,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickenson.

She then added that Hester participated in the preparations for an attack by providing materials and resources while at the same time “voiced his intent” to carry out an attack.

One particular social media post Hester made pointed that he had converted to Islam and posted several photos of weapons and the ISIS flag. In addition, he was told that the planned attack would be at the President's Day holiday where they would target “buses, trains and a train station in Kansas City.”

Hester “expressed approval” of the said attack and even told and undercover FBI agent that it would be “good to strike back at the true terrorist,” said Scallywag & Vagabond, citing a statement from the criminal affidavit.

He also detailed potential attacks on “federal places,” “government officials,” “military bases,” “oil production” and “Wall Street,” said ABC News, adding that Hester also agreed to help undercover agents to build a bomb and store weapons that they will use for the attack.

Hester was enlisted in the U.S. Army for less than a year and through his experience said that he was proficient with assault weapons and can gain access to military bases, added the outlet, citing DOJ's statement.

On September 24, 2019, Hester pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Greg Kays for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

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