FBI, investigating plot to kill judge, search Bolingbrook home

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A man charged with sending money to al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been charged with trying to kill the federal judge in his case. | AP file photo (SITE Intelligence Group)

The deal that would ultimately have cost about $15,000 was to be referred to as “puppies.”

But a man accused of helping funnel cash to al-Qaida and awaiting trial in an Ohio jail wasn’t arranging a delivery of pedigreed pooches.

Instead, according to federal agents, he was trying to arrange for a hit man to kill the federal judge in his terrorism case — and the man’s Bolingbrook wife allegedly played a key role in the unsuccessful plot.

Details of the deadly deal emerged this week as a federal warrant filed to search the woman’s home in Bolingbrook was unsealed in court in Chicago.

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37, originally from India, is one of four people charged in federal court in Ohio with conspiring to “provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists” in a 2015 case. His brother, Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad, 36, is also charged in the case, and studied engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2001 to 2005, before moving to Ohio, authorities said.

In March, Yahya Mohammad met with a fellow inmate in the Lucas County Corrections Center in Toledo, Ohio, and discussed hiring someone to kill the judge in his case, according to the affidavit for an FBI search warrant. The search warrant, which a judge granted, sought a number of items — including cell phones and computers — from the wife’s home, which was searched in May.

The other inmate went to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with the investigation, according to the affidavit.

In April, while investigators were secretly recording him, Mohammad told the other inmate he wanted U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary kidnapped and then killed, the affidavit states.

When asked when he wanted the judge killed, Mohammad allegedly said, “The sooner would be good, you know.”

The inmate later introduced Mohammad to an undercover FBI agent who posed as someone capable of carrying out the plan. In early May, Mohammad’s wife met the agent at a post office in Bolingbrook, where she allegedly provided $1,000 stuffed in a white envelope, the affidavit states. Later that month, the agent again met with Mohammad’s wife, showing her a “doctored” image of the judge “with multiple gunshot wounds to the head,” the affidavit states. The agent then told Mohammad’s wife that he now needed the rest of the agreed-upon money. The wife then promised to call her husband about the money, the affidavit states.

Last month, Mohammad was charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge. Mohammad’s wife has not been charged in the case, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said Friday.

Mohammad’s attorney, Tom Durkin, promised a vigorous defense.

“It is interesting the government, once again, has stooped to using a notorious jail-house informant to devise an absurdly convoluted plot that makes little to no practical sense,” Durkin said Friday.

Mohammad was indicted in 2015 on charges of conspiring to travel to Yemen to provide money to support violent jihad against U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and specifically sending money to then-key al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

Contributing: Jon Seidel

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