Three PBC men accused of scheming to join terrorist jihad

Three Palm Beach County men who secretly supported the Islamic State and schemed to join the terrorist jihad were arrested on Thursday after one attempted to board a plane at Miami International Airport to begin his journey to Syria, according to court records.

Gregory Hubbard, 52, of West Palm Beach, was arrested after he cleared a TSA security checkpoint with an FBI undercover informant on Thursday. Hubbard and the informant had booked tickets to Berlin, where Hubbard hoped to continue to Syria, according to the complaint.

Darren Arness Jackson, 50, who drove Hubbard and the informant to the airport after weeks of target practice in remote areas was arrested after leaving the airport. Dayne Antani Christian, 31, of Lake Park, also was arrested. Christian, a felon with a firearm conviction, helped arm the group.

“Individuals seeking to travel and take up arms with ISIS pose a threat to the United States and humanity across the globe,” said Southern District U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. All three were charged with knowingly conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS. Christian, also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to the complaint, in April 2015 Hubbard, also known as Jibreel, told an FBI confidential informant that he wanted to travel to Syria and join ISIS. Hubbard introduced the informant to Christian and Jackson, both of whom provided weapons and firearms instruction to Hubbard and the informant, knowing that the men were planning to fight for ISIS.

The 22-page complaint provides a timeline of how the group’s plans evolved and commitment to ISIS intensified. Hubbard sent the informant a 100-page ISIS manual and told the informant that he had written two articles and sent them to ISIS for publication and was working on a third article about the media’s coverage of ISIS.

Hubbard told the informant that there were only two kinds of people in the world: “Those who were with ISIS and those who were against ISIS.”

Hubbard said he had been radicalized by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born, Yemeni cleric whose extremist videos were viewed by Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha, the first American suicide bomber in Syria. Mateen and Abu-Salha had met at a mosque in Fort Pierce. Al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen in September 2011.

Hubbard, who served four years in the Marine Corps, and Christian used the code phrase “soccer team” when referring to ISIS and “playing soccer” when discussing their efforts to join the terrorist jihad. The AK-47 assault rifle was “the Bible.”

In December, Hubbard and the informant were eating at an unidentified West Palm Beach-area restaurant when the television showed the terrorist attack in San Bernardino , Calif. When the informant said the shooting was a tragedy, Hubbard became upset, stood up suddenly and said he did not care how many Americans and infidels were killed and he did not care if people noticed his outburst.

Several days later, Hubbard was excited when he received his passport and could join the cause. As planning progressed, discussions turned to guns — which weapons were most lethal and how to get them. Christian talked about wanting to kill veterans he saw in the gym, especially one who wore a Marine shirt. Christian said he could hide in the bushes outside the man’s home and then “pop” — shoot him when he came home.

The men listened to lectures by radical clerics while driving together. They praised other terrorist attacks and discussed ISIS beheading videos. The group practiced shooting at an indoor range and in June at a remote unidentified wildlife area in South Florida.

Little is known about the men or how they came to know one another.

Hubbard, an artist, joined the Marine Corps when he was 19 and worked in aviation supply. During four years, Hubbard was stationed in Jacksonville, N.C., and traveled to Japan, Korea and the Philippines.

Christian served a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to making false statements to buy 15 firearms for a former Air Force officer. The officer, Leon Swan, couldn’t purchase guns because he had a criminal record, court records show.

Swan tried to conceal the guns in two stand-up video arcade games to be shipped through the Port of Palm Beach to the U.S. Virgin Islands, federal prosecutors said.

They were caught when a port X-ray machine detected an “anomaly,” according to a criminal complaint. When customs agents unscrewed the backs of the game units, they found 21 guns and about 1,600 rounds of ammunition.

Christian lied on federal documents, claiming he was purchasing the weapons for himself.

West Palm Beach defense attorney Michael Salnick, who represented Christian, described him as a “good kid.”

On Friday, The Acreage home where Hubbard is believed to have lived was vacant and an unidentified person at Jackson’s home in Royal Palm Beach said he was not home. At Christian’s last known address in West Palm Beach, no one answered the door.

Hubbard moved his belongings, including some of his artwork, to a storage unit in his hometown of Albany, Ga. On Thursday, Jackson drove Hubbard and the informant to the airport. Hubbard and the informant got their boarding passes. After clearing the security checkpoint, agents arrested Hubbard. Jackson was arrested as he left the airport and Christian was arrested at his job.

A detention hearing was set for Wednesday and arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 5. If convicted, the three face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Staff writers Hannah Winston, Jane Musgrave and John Pacenti and staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.

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