A U.S. Air Force veteran tried to join ISIS in Syria but was turned back by Turkish authorities before he could get to the war-torn country, U.S. authorities allege in a two-count indictment announced Tuesday.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, accused of making the foiled attempt in January, was indicted by a grand jury this week on charges of trying to give material support to the terror group, and obstruction of justice, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Pugh, a former avionics instrument system specialist in the Air Force, was arrested upon his return to the United States in January and will be arraigned Wednesday in a federal court in New York, the Justice Department said.
“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Carlin said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Pugh served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 1990. He was an avionics instrument specialist, according to documents filed by the court. After further investigation, he was let go from the Air Force and has since took multiple jobs in the Middle East as a mechanic.
Turkish border authorities did not allow Pugh into the country; they sent him back on flight to Egypt. He was then deported to the United States, after it was discovered that he had acquired suspicious items, such as pictures of a military-grade machine gun. Pugh was promptly arrested on January 16, though further details regarding him being taken into custody and his charges have not been released.
Investigators searched his laptop and unveiled online searches about border crossing points controlled by ISIS, and videos and images that showed ISIS executions. Furthermore, although Pugh is an American citizen, there were online postings that inferred his desire to leave the U.S. to join a terrorist organization.
Pugh will plead not guilty on Wednesday, his attorney Michael Schneider said.