An Indian-American man from Williamsburg, Virginia, who told an FBI undercover employee that he wanted to commit jihad, was sentenced today to five years in prison for passport fraud and making false statements in his application to join the United States military.
Shivam Patel, 28, was also ordered to pay $4,000 in fines for making false statements in his military applications, pilotonline.com, the online publication of Virginian Pilot news outlet, reported. It also reported that Patel has a degree in criminal justice from Virginia State University.
According to court documents, detailed in a press release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia June 4, Patel was working in China in the summer of 2016 when he flew to Jordan, was arrested, detained, and then returned to the United States.
Patel belongs to the Hindu faith but converted to Islam a few years ago and according to news reports, and the Virginian Pilot news outlet earlier reported Patel’s parents told the FBI their son had become ‘obsessed with Islam.’ The report also said Patel had described the terror attack by Major Nidal Hassan who fatally shot 13 soldiers in 2009, as “completely justified” and that he wanted to be a martyr like Hassan.
Patel told an undercover employee and a confidential source that he wanted to join a “Muslim army” and commit jihad, the Justice Department press release said. After returning to the United States, he applied to join the Army and Air Force. When asked about his prior foreign travel as part of his applications, Patel did not disclose his trips to China or Jordan. After he was asked to show an Army recruiter his passport, which would have revealed his prior travel to the recruiter, he filed an application for a new passport, falsely claiming that he had accidentally thrown his old passport away. Special agents from the FBI recovered that passport, which documented his undisclosed travel, when they arrested him in July 2017.
The Pilotonline report refers to a letter Patel wrote to court where he describes “a history of mental health problems, his shifting views on religion and spirituality over the years, and his desire to help others.” The letter says his views on Islam changed after his return from Jordan, and that he began attending Hindu services with his parents before he was arrested, the Pilot report says. He also said in his letter that he tried to join the military and other paramilitary organizations in the area, “because his parents were trying to arrange a marriage. He said he was trying to make himself more attractive to a prospective wife,” the Pilot reported.