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Ali Shukri Amin, a Virginia teenager, pleaded guilty as an adult on Thursday for helping a high school classmate get to Syria in the hopes of joining ISIS, according to law enforcement officials.
It's believed to be the first time an American teenager has been convicted of assisting the ISIS terror group. The case is also unusual because juveniles are seldom prosecuted in federal court.
It is also a high profile example of the ways in which terrorist groups are using social media to connect with young people, law enforcement officials said. Amin, 17, appeared Thursday morning before a judge in a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia and could face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, according to law enforcement officials.
Sentencing will be on August 28th.
Amin was arrested in March at his home in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Woodbridge, Virginia, where he attended high school.
"Today's guilty plea shows how pervasive online can be - make no mistake this case is a tragedy — first for the Amin family who have lost loving son and brother...to seductive propaganda," FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director Andrew McCabe told reporters.
Amin's attorney said the teen "has never committed a violent act in his life. He is a good person."
Through a pro-ISIS Twitter account, @AmreekiWitness, Amin used his sway on social media to rally support for the terrorist group and even sought to raise funds using Bitcoin, a digital currency, law enforcement officials said. He eventually gained roughly 4,000 followers and posted more than 7,000 Tweets.
His posts included attempts to inspire those who wanted to support ISIS "including beheading of journalists," McCabe said.
He also used the Internet to find ISIS contacts overseas and make travel arrangements for Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old classmate. Amin drove with Niknejad to Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia and provided Niknejad with instructions on what to do once he arrived in Turkey law enforcement officials said.
Amin delivered a letter and thumb drive to Niknejad's family members in which the he indicated he did not plan to see them again.
"Around the nation, we are seeing ISIL use social media to reach out from the other side of the world. Their messages are reaching America in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite our youth and others to support ISIL's violent causes," John Carlin, assistant attorney general for National Security said in a statement. "This case serves as a wake-up call that ISIL's propaganda and recruitment materials are in your communities and being viewed by your youth. This challenge requires parental and community awareness and action to confront and deter this threat wherever it surfaces."