U.S. Pizzeria Owner Handed Longest-Ever Sentence for Supporting ISIS

ISIS Syria Iraq US Support Middle East
Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, is seen in an undated handout picture released by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, in Rochester, New York June 2, 2014. Reuters/Monroe County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters

A U.S. court sentenced a man to 22 and a half years in prison on Thursday after he attempted to recruit fighters to join the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria. It is the longest prison sentenced given to an American for supporting the radical Islamist group.

The Western District of New York's lawyer William Hochul called Mufid Elfgeeh, a 32-year-old from Rochester, "one of the first ISIL recruiters ever captured" by U.S. authorities, in reference to another term for the group. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford said that he was "clearly on a path of destruction."

Elfgeeh is a pizza shop owner but was the first American accused of recruiting for ISIS. He was convicted of providing material support to the group. If he is sufficiently well behaved during his incarceration, he would only have to serve 85 percent of his time.

Prosecutors said that Elfgeeh's arrest and jailing were significant as it had prevented possible attacks on U.S. soil, recruitment to the group.

Most importantly, they said, he rejected his support for group before he was sentenced, showing that the group did not have the dedicated support that it attempts to project.

"They try to create this false narrative that everyone is in favor of them," said Hochul.

He was arrested after attempting to buy firearms and silencers from undercover FBI agents and authorities accused him of wishing to kill American soldiers with the handguns.

"I think that, beyond any doubt, he was interested in not only getting individuals to join ISIS but he himself was interested in and made overt steps to actually engage in violence," Adam Cohen, who heads the western New York office of the FBI, told the USA Today affiliate the Democrat and Chronicle after Elfgeeh's sentencing.

His sentencing came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defined the militant group's mass killings of Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria as genocide.