Accused ISIS associate in Fayetteville pleads guilty to tax charges

Accused ISIS associate in Fayetteville pleads guilty to tax charges

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (WNCN) - A Fayetteville man has pleaded guilty to charges connected with immigration and tax violations after federal authorities say he lied by denying being associated with ISIS.

Houcine Bechir Ghoul pleaded guilty in federal court to attempted unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization and filing false tax returns.

Federal authorities say that Ghoul lied when he said that he had no association with any terrorist organization and that he supported the Constitution of the United States, among other things.

They also said that under-reported his income in 2015 and 2016.

According to the criminal complaint, the FBI started taking a closer look at Ghoul back in 2014.

They say a confidential source sent the FBI screenshots from Ghoul's Facebook page. In them, he indicates his support for ISIS. That in turn, led to surveillance of him.

Investigators uncovered a photo circulating online of a man holding a sign including an Arabic phrase expressing support for ISIS and "N. Carolina, USA." A man arrested by state authorities on drug dealing charges told authorities that Ghoul asked him to pose for the photo while holding the sign, according to an affidavit from federal investigators.

The drug suspect told investigators that he met Ghoul while hanging out at the Snack Attack on Bragg Boulevard in Fayetteville, where Ghoul worked, according to the affidavit.

In one conversation with a source, according to the affidavit, Ghoul said, "I support the Islamic State. I support anything the Islamic State does… Body and soul."

In another interaction, documented in the affidavit, Ghoul watched an ISIS propaganda video with a source. According to the statement, on May 12, 2016, Ghoul told that source, "Go to Turkey." He said he'd contact him there and that "the brothers will come for you."

An informant said Ghoul told them he'd sent as many as 13 people overseas to support ISIS.

"I just got shocked like anybody else," the owner of the Snack Attack said.

He didn't want to be identified. He said he fired Ghoul more than two years ago. He told CBS North Carolina there was no connection between his store and Ghoul.