FBI nabs 3 Palm Beach County men trying to join ISIS- used code words like ‘soccer team’

Three Florida men who were planning to travel to Syria to join ISIS are now facing federal charges of conspiring and attempting to support the Islamic State.

The Palm Beach County men’s plot to travel to Syria to engage in “violent jihad” was thwarted, federal authorities said Friday.

Gregory Hubbard, 52, Darren Jackson, 50, both of West Palm Beach, and Dayne Christian, 31, of Lake Park, were named in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

“According to the complaint, these defendants conspired and attempted to provide material support to ISIL and one of the defendants was arrested attempting to travel overseas to join and fight for the deadly terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin, according to the Department of Justice.

A neighbor of Hubbard’s told WPLG-TV that he “never would have expected that.” But, Brian Petrillo later recalled, “he used to shoot the birds, which is pretty crazy.”

The complaint says Hubbard told an FBI informant that he wanted to travel to Syria and join ISIL “for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.” The report said Hubbard introduced the informant to Christian and Jackson, who provided weapons and firearms instruction.

“Christian stated that he was in contact with a Syrian national inside Syria who was a member of ISIL,” the complaint said.

Special Agent Brian King said the men expressed support for recent terrorist attacks, including the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June. They told the informant that they felt persecuted because of their Muslim faith, and they felt people at the firing range were practicing killing Muslims.

Hubbard and Christian allegedly used the code phrase “soccer team” when referring to ISIS and “playing soccer” when referring to joining ISIS, according to the complaint.

“Hubbard purchased an airplane ticket to Germany, where he planned to board a train to Turkey and then head to Syria,” according to the Department of Justice.  “Hubbard was arrested on July 21, 2016, at Miami International Airport prior to the first leg of his overseas trip. Jackson, who had driven Hubbard to the airport, was arrested after he left the airport premises. Christian was arrested at his place of work.”

If convicted, the men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Christian, a convicted felon may face an additional 10 years for illegally possessing a firearm, according to officials. Christian also admitted to buying four guns in the last year, including an AK-47 assault rifle, according to the FBI.

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Video from WPLG-TV.

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Frieda Powers

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