HOUSTON (CN) – A Texan who tried to provide material support to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and committed identity theft was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner gave Barry Walter Bujol Jr. the maximum sentence Thursday for both the material support and aggravated identity theft charges.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magdison said in a statement: “We do not take matters of potential national security lightly.”
Bujol, 30, represented himself in a four-day bench trial before Hittner in November. The Hempstead man did not testify on his own behalf or call any witnesses, while the United States presented 325 exhibits and 12 witnesses during the trial, prosecutors said.
The investigation that started in 2009 showed that Bujol, a former student at Prairie View A&M University, met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to carry out violent jihad.
Bujol had been in contact with Anwar al-Awlaqi, a now-deceased Yemeni-American imam and AQAP recruiter, federal prosecutors said.
Awlaqi’s sermons, available on the Internet, are said to have inspired three of the Sept. 11 hijackers, the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, and the Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Awlaqi was killed in Yemen on Sept. 30 by U.S. drone strike.
The FBI arranged for Bujol to meet the undercover agent after he made three unsuccessful attempts to leave the United States for the Middle East in 2009. “Law enforcement, believing these were Bujol’s efforts to make ‘violent jihad,’ thwarted him each time he tried to leave,” prosecutors said in the statement.
Bujol was arrested on May 30, 2010, after boarding a ship at the Port of Houston, “which Bujol believed was bound for Algeria, where he would stay at an Al Qaeda safe house before continuing on to Yemen,” prosecutors said.
Bujol intended to stow away in the ship to join AQAP, and give the terrorist organization restricted military manuals, global position system receivers, prepaid international phone cards, SIM cards and about 2,000 euros obtained from the undercover agent, prosecutors said. (pr graph 8)
“Bujol secured these items in his baggage and quickly boarded the ship,” prosecutors said in the statement. “Minutes after stowing away in a room on board the ship, agents took him into custody without incident. Simultaneously, agents executed a search warrant on his apartment and his laptop computer. On the computer, agents found a home-made video montage of still photographs, including images of Osama bin Laden, Najibullah Zazi and multiple armed ‘mujahideen’ fighters, which Bujol narrated.
“On the video, which was offered into evidence at trial, he addressed his words to his wife, explaining that he had left her suddenly and without forewarning to pursue ‘jihad.’ Bujol told her he would likely not see her until the afterlife.”
Bujol’s aggravated identity theft charge came from a phony Transportation Administration Security card he used to enter the Port of Houston the night of his arrest, prosecutors said.
The undercover agent had Bujol give him a passport photo and false name, and then used these to “acquire” the card for him, prosecutors said.
Bujol got 15 years on the material support charge, and five for the aggravated identity theft charge.