Queens Woman Is Sentenced to 15 Years in Bomb Plot

Queens Woman Is Sentenced to 15 Years in Bomb Plot

A federal judge this week sentenced a Queens woman to 15 years in prison for her role in a bomb-making plot that would have targeted the United States, Justice Department officials said Thursday.

The woman, Asia Siddiqui, 35, was one of two people who were arrested and charged in April 2015 after a monthslong undercover investigation found that they had discussed the advantages of different types of bombs and obtained four propane gas tanks, according to the authorities.

In August 2019, Ms. Siddiqui and the other defendant, Noelle Velentzas, 32, pleaded guilty to a charge of teaching and distributing information about weapons of mass destruction, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement on Thursday.

Ms. Velentzas is still awaiting sentencing, the office said.

While prosecutors said that the plot was foiled because of the investigation, Ms. Siddiqui’s lawyer said in an interview on Thursday that there was no indication that a bomb would have ever been built.

“Lives were saved when the defendants’ plot to detonate a bomb in a terrorist attack was thwarted by the tireless efforts of law enforcement,” Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in the statement.

Ms. Siddiqui and Ms. Velentzas planned from 2013 to 2015 to build a bomb to use in a terrorist attack in the United States, the prosecutor’s office said, noting that the women “taught each other chemistry and electrical skills directly related to creating explosives and building detonating devices.”

The women researched how to build plastic explosives and a car bomb, and they shopped for materials that could be used in an explosive device, the office said. It added that they also discussed devices used in past terrorist attacks, including the Boston Marathon bombings, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 World Trade Center attack.

According to court documents, prosecutors said the women researched “potential targets of an attack, focusing on law enforcement.”

“Today’s sentencing is a strong and timely reminder that the N.Y.P.D. and its partners in law enforcement will never stop pursuing those who, if undetected, would plan and execute acts of terrorism in the United States,” said Dermot F. Shea, the New York City police commissioner.

The United States attorney’s office said Ms. Siddiqui’s “long-term interest in violent terrorist-related activities” was displayed in her submissions to a “radical jihadist magazine.”

Ms. Siddiqui wrote two poems and an article that were published in a magazine called Jihad Recollections, prosecutors said in court documents.

At the time of the arrests, the authorities found “tools of the trade for terrorists,” the United States attorney’s office said, including propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions, machetes, knives and jihadist literature.

But Charles Swift, Ms. Siddiqui’s lawyer and the director of the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, said the women had no direct plot against the United States and that his client did not pose a threat to the nation.

“The facts speak for themselves,” he said, noting that “this was a seven-month F.B.I. undercover sting operation” that targeted his client and Ms. Velentzas.

“There was never a bomb built, there was never a target selected, and Asia Siddiqui, at the end, had suggested that everybody study on their own and wasn’t studying herself,” he said. “There is nothing to suggest that if we’d gone for another seven months, or another seven years, there ever would have been a bomb.”

There was a violation under the law, Mr. Swift said, “but that’s different than there being a threat.”

He said he respected the court’s opinion, even if he disagreed and was disappointed by it.

Ms. Siddiqui, who apologized in a lengthy statement to the court, regrets her decisions, Mr. Swift said.

She pledged to serve her sentence “with dignity,” he said. “I’ve never had a client like that.”

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