‘Wannabe terrorist’ sentenced to 19 years for traveling with IEDs in Orange County


A 48-year-old man was sentenced to 19 years and four months in state prison Monday after police in Orange County last year found two improvised explosive devices in his car during a traffic stop, prosecutors said.

Saleh Abdallah Ali of Salinas was convicted earlier this month of two felony counts each of use of a destructive device with the intent to injure, sale and transportation of a destructive device, reckless and malicious possession of a destructive device on a public street, and one felony count of intent to unlawfully make a destructive device.

Ali was arrested Sept. 18 after a rookie Brea Police Department officer stopped Ali’s vehicle for having expired registration tags, Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said.


The officer determined Ali was driving on a suspended license and conducted an inventory of the car before it was towed.

That’s when the officer found two small glass containers with improvised fuses covered in shrapnel and filled with explosive material, prosecutors said. Ali also had hand-drawn diagrams of bombs in his car, according to court records.

“There is no doubt that he had the intent by his possession of these weapons to commit as much mass destruction as he could,” Spitzer said at a news conference Monday.

There are no direct ties between Ali and any terrorist organization, according to Joshua Stone, an FBI assistant special agent in charge. Spitzer called Ali a “wannabe terrorist.”

“In this particular case, we got lucky,” Stone said at the news conference.

Ali, who called the judge “a cockroach” during the proceedings, according to the district attorney’s office, has a history of violent crimes stretching back 18 years. He was convicted in 2003 for making terrorist threats and possessing a weapon with an unlawful purpose after he fired a gun at his brother-in-law and another person during an argument in 2001, prosecutors said.

He also pleaded guilty in 2003 to aggravated assault after he slashed the face of a 23-year-old from his earlobe to his chin with a box-cutter-style knife in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts. Both crimes happened in New Jersey.


In 2013, Ali served a two-year prison sentence in Nepal after he threw a glass jar full of acid into the face of a hotel manager, leaving the man blind in one eye, prosecutors said. Ali had argued with the manager two months earlier over the lack of hot water at the hotel.

“Today we took a terribly dangerous person off the streets,” Spitzer said.