A 25-year-old Rochester, N.Y., man has been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State in what authorities described as a plot to attack civilians on New Year’s Eve, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Emanuel Lutchman faces 20 years in prison if convicted. According to a criminal complaint, Lutchman told an accomplice — who was actually working for the FBI — that he was being told to carry out an attack at the direction of an Islamic State member in Syria.
The arrest comes amid global security alerts. Officials in the Turkish and Belgian capitals have already said they had disrupted plots targeting such New Year’s Eve celebrations, and a number of cities will have a heightened security presence.
Authorities in Upstate New York said Lutchman was arrested as part of an FBI sting. He “planned to kill innocent civilians on New Year’s Eve in the name of the terrorist organization,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, citing the complaint, said in a statement.
Lutchman previously served time in prison for a robbery conviction and has had state mental hygiene arrests — most often used to detain people who are believed to be suicidal. The criminal complaint describes him as “a self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history.”
According to the complaint, Lutchman suggested sneaking a bomb inside of a club or bar, and kidnapping civilians to kill. But he ultimately conceded he didn’t have money for such weapons and that they would have to use knives during the attack.
The “accomplice” paid $40 for supplies to use in the attack, which Lutchman said an Islamic State member told him to carry out so that he could join the group, according to the criminal complaint.
Lutchman made an audio recording swearing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and told the informant that he wanted to live “under the caliphate” because he hates the United States, the criminal complaint states.
“The FBI remains concerned about people overseas who use the Internet to inspire people in the United States to commit acts of violence where they live,” said Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of the bureau’s Buffalo Division.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement Thursday that Lutchman’s arrest “is an important reminder of the new normal of global terrorism.”
“Today law enforcement did their job well – but the challenges we face have never been greater, and it is incumbent on every citizen to be diligent and responsible,” Cuomo said. “I want to reassure all New Yorkers and our state’s visitors that we are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and are in regular contact with our partners in both the federal government and local communities, statewide.”
Lutchman appeared before a judge Thursday, but attorney information for him was not immediately available.
[Julie Tate contributed to this post, which has been updated.]