2 suburban men charged with supporting Islamic State

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Joseph D. Jones (left) and Edward Schimenti caught on camera with a confidential FBI source prosecutors say they believed was an ISIS supporter. Prosecutors blurred the source’s face. | U.S District Court

Edward Schimenti bragged about watching ISIS videos every night, the feds say.

The Islamic State flag has even been spotted on his phone, records show.

And he knew the feds might be watching.

But the suspicions of the Zion man — caught on tape wishing to see the ISIS flag “on top of the White House” — allegedly weren’t enough to stop him from plotting to send a fresh recruit to ISIS. Nor did he hesitate to provide a collection of cellphones he hoped would ultimately be used by the terrorist organization as detonators on bombs that would kill 20 people each, according to the feds.

“I want to see blood flowing, whatever way,” Schimenti, also known as “Abdul Wali,” said.

Having ignored his suspicions, Schimenti is now in federal custody along with Joseph D. Jones, who also goes by “Yusuf Abdulhaqq.” The 35-year-olds from Zion were arrested around 5 a.m. Wednesday by the FBI and charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State. The feds descended on their north suburban home in a raid that began with a “boom” that rattled neighbors as agents broke down their front door.

Joseph D. Jones, left, and Edward Schimenti holding ISIS falg at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, according to a federal criminal complaint against the men. | Photo exhibit in federal complaint

Joseph D. Jones, left, and Edward Schimenti holding ISIS falg at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, according to a federal criminal complaint against the men. | Photo exhibit in federal complaint

A 77-page criminal complaint filed against the men contains photos of them posing with the ISIS flag at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. It also suggests Schimenti was trying to gather the courage to launch an attack at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Lolita Watkins of allegations that her neighbors plotted to join the Islamic State. “They can infiltrate anything.”

Clyde McLemore, chair of the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter, said Schimenti once joined a protest outside the Zion Police Department organized to denounce the police-involved shooting of Justus Howell in April 2015.

“He said he wanted to blow up the police department in retaliation,” McLemore said. “We had to take the bullhorn away from him.”

The men appeared briefly in court Wednesday afternoon. U.S. District Judge David Weisman told them they would be held in custody at least until a hearing Monday. Jones wore a red hoodie in court, and Schimenti smiled and waved to a woman in the gallery. Both men told the judge they have worked for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

The complaint announced Wednesday details an investigation that lasted at least 19 months, beginning when an undercover FBI employee approached Jones at the Zion Police Department in September 2015. Jones was there for an interview about a murdered friend. The Zion police did not return a call seeking comment.

The pair would ultimately be fooled by at least four feds working undercover — two adopting the same online persona — as well as a fifth person cooperating with law enforcement. The feds allegedly led Jones and Schimenti to believe they had gained access to an ISIS network designed to smuggle new recruits into Syria.

The men allegedly helped the cooperator obtain cellphones meant to be used as detonators, introduced him to an undercover fed they believed could get him overseas, and then drove the cooperator to O’Hare Airport to begin his journey on Friday. Once he left, the pair planned to deliver more cellphones via the cooperator’s “aunt,” records show.

During the investigation, Jones allegedly shared gruesome Islamic State videos — depicting the deaths of people who were beheaded by a child soldier, drowned in a cage, and blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade while locked inside a vehicle. Another video demonstrated various ways to stab someone. It was titled “Some of the Deadly Stabbing Ways: Do not Forget to Poison the Knife.”

Federal authorities sought a warrant to search this house in Zion. | Ruth Fuller/For the Sun-Times

Federal authorities sought a warrant to search this house in Zion. | Ruth Fuller/For the Sun-Times

One undercover fed asked Jones if he ever thought about joining ISIS. Jones allegedly replied, “every night and day.”

Schimenti fantasized about how, under Islamic law, they could put gay people “on top of Sears Tower and we drop you,” according to the feds. He allegedly revealed that desire while at a gym in Zion, where the men took the FBI’s cooperator to train to “make you good, you know, in the battlefield.”

“I’m all big, fat . . . but inshallah the brothers will just have me be the one to cut the neck,” Schimenti allegedly said.

Jones also shared online a 46-page document in May 2015 titled, “A Brief Guide to the Islamic State [2015],” records show.

The document concludes: “When we descend on the streets of London, Paris, and Washington the taste will be far bitterer, because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history, and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse of their forefathers.”

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