MISSOULA- A man who traveled by bus from New York to Bozeman is facing federal charges for lying about his alleged ties to Islamic terrorist groups, including ISIS, and illegal gun possession.
Fabjan Alameti, 21, made his initial appearance on the criminal charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch in Missoula Thursday. He was arrested Wednesday at a Bozeman shooting range.
The announcement was made Thursday afternoon jointly by U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme and Paul Haertel, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office.
“We want to make it absolutely clear that Mr. Alameti has no known ties to Montana or any affiliation with the Muslim community in Bozeman,” Haertel said in a statement.
Federal agents first interviewed Alameti in May 2018 at his former residence in Bronx, N.Y., as part of a terrorism investigation, according to a probable cause statement from FBI Agent Matthew J. Deurmeier. He acknowledged he used a Facebook account under the name “Fabjan Alamati” and smoked marijuana.
In January, an FBI informant told authorities he’d noticed pro-ISIS comments on Facebook groups from the account identified as Alameti’s, according to court documents.
The informant began messaging Alameti, who wrote that he wanted to travel to Syria to fight ISIS and had once considered attacks on public buildings in the United States, according to court documents.
Last month, the FBI obtained a search warrant for messages Alameti allegedly exchanged with another person on Facebook in Albanian, which indicated his desire to obtain explosive to attack civilian targets, according to the court documents.
This was around the time he said in the messages that he had bought a ticket to Bozeman, prosecutors said. He indicated that he felt it was easier to buy guns in Montana than in New York, according to court documents.
FBI agents traced Alameti’s bus trip from the East Coast to Montana. In Billings, Alameti got off the bus and bought a Crossman air pistol, an air canister and pellets. Agents said they believe he chose the air pistol because of its close resemblance to a .357 revolver.
Prosecutors said Alameti bought another air rifle in Bozeman upon arrival and was kicked out of the Bozeman Inn for smoking marijuana, all while under FBI surveillance. After booking a room in a hostel, Alameti was taken to a hospital for alcohol poisoning.
While in the hospital, agents confiscated his air pistol and rifle, and he was told to report to the Law and Justice Center in Bozeman to retrieve them.
So he did on March 20, and he was met by FBI agents. During an interview, prosecutors allege he denied expressing a desire to fight U.S. forces overseas or harm Americans.
On Wednesday, Alameti went to a gun range and rented a firearm using his New York ID. He was immediately arrested by the FBI for possessing a firearm by a user of a controlled substance, in this case, marijuana.
If convicted of the most serious crime, Alameti faces a maximum 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
In a news release, Alme emphasized the complaint is an accusation and Alameti is innocent until proven guilty.