LOS ANGELES — The leader of a militant Islamic prison gang and three others were indicted Wednesday on federal charges of planning terrorist attacks against National Guard facilities, the Israeli Consulate and other Los Angeles-area targets.
The four conspired to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism, kill armed service members and murder foreign officials, among other charges, according to the indictment.
Named in the indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29.
Prosecutors contend the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Samana at the behest of James, an inmate at the California State Prison-Sacramento who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh.
Washington converted to Islam while serving three years in the prison for a robbery conviction.
According to the indictment, Washington pledged his loyalty to James "until death by martyrdom" and sought to establish a JIS cell outside prison with members with bomb expertise.
Washington, Patterson and Samana — who attended the same Inglewood mosque — allegedly conducted surveillance of National Guard facilities, the Israeli Consulate and several synagogues in the Los Angeles area as well as Internet research on Jewish holidays.
The attacks were to be carried out with firearms and other weapons on Jewish holidays, according to the indictment. Patterson allegedly bought a .223-caliber rifle in July.
To finance the attacks, prosecutors said, the three robbed a string of gas stations in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The case arose after Washington and Patterson were arrested July 5 by police in Torrance, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles, for investigation of robbing the gas stations.
Federal and local counterterrorism officials began investigating after police who searched Washington's apartment in the robbery case said they found a possible target list. Samana, a student originally from Pakistan who lived in Inglewood, was taken into federal custody Aug. 2.
Attorneys representing Washington, Patterson and Samana did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
James — known as Shakyh Shahaab Murshid, among other aliases — founded JIS in 1997 while imprisoned for an attempted-robbery conviction in Los Angeles County, prosecutors said. He preached that the duty of JIS members was to attack enemies of Islam.
Washington was paroled in November 2004, around the time authorities say he joined James' group.
James then instructed Washington to recruit five members with felony convictions and train them to conduct covert operations; acquire firearms with silencers; and appoint a group member to help produce remotely activated explosives, prosecutors claim.
The FBI recently ordered its agents nationwide to conduct "threat assessments" of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release.