A 20-year-old student at a California community college, who authorities said had discussed an attack on the Los Angeles subway, has been arrested on a federal terrorism charge while trying to enter Canada for an eventual trip to the Mideast, where he planned to help a group wage holy war, officials said Monday.
Nicholas Teausant, 20, of Acampo, Calif., was arrested at the border crossing in Blaine, Wash. He was planning to eventually join a terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, which includes Sacramento.
Teausant is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Washington on Monday afternoon on a charge of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, officials said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
In a 23-page affidavit distributed along with the charges, officials said Teausant told a confidential source that he and friends, while on a camping trip after Thanksgiving, had discussed “hitting” Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, specifically targeting the subway. The plot was canceled, Teausant said, amid fears that security had been compromised and that someone had been identified and arrested by FBI.
It is unclear how far the subway plot went and it is not included in the charge. Authorities note that they haven’t corroborated the camping trip.
Teausant was described as a student of San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton. He was a member of the U.S. National Guard. His service began April 30, 2012, but he did not maintain the minimum academic qualifications to continue, according to authorities. Last December, he was in the process of being released by the National Guard, but was still listed as a reservist with the rank of private under the job code of “trainee unassigned” in the 118th Maintenance Company based in Stockton.
Officials describe his training as minimal; he never attended basic training.
The affidavit states that in October, Teausant began exploring ways to support violent extremist activities and to provide material support to various terrorist organizations, though he had made his desires known on social media networks previously.
In postings on Instagram, Teausant, using an alias with which he was associated, stated: “don’t get me wrong I despise america and want its downfall but yeah haha. Lol I been part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”
Authorities said that Teausant, using another alias on a forum, ask.fm, said he wanted to go fight in Syria. Asked which country he disliked the most, Teausant allegedly replied, “I live in it.”
In October, Teausant made contact with a person identified as only a confidential source. Both men are described as recent converts to Islam. The men met for breakfast and then again. By the end of the month, the relationship had matured to the point that officials said Teausant stated he wanted to fight overseas and that Muslims in the West needed to rise up.
In December, Teausant warns the confidential source: “Don’t go to LA Anytime sooo ... Please trust me on this ... and if you do go don’t use the subway.”
The source questioned Teausant’s seriousness and whether he could follow through. Teausant insisted he was serious and wanted to go to Canada, then on to Syria to train fighters “to shoot properly.”
By the beginning of March, Teausant met with the source and an undercover law enforcement officer. The suspect insisted he wanted to fight, authorities said, and that he wanted to join the “brothers” abroad.
By March 8, Teausant was making arrangements to leave by train from Lodi to Canada. On Sunday, he boarded a train heading to Seattle.
By 11:40 p.m. he had arrived in Blaine, Wash., just short of the Canadian border where he was arrested, officials said.