An Orange Country resident named Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen made one of his first appearances in federal court on Monday, charged with offering material support to al-Qaeda. FBI investigators allege that Nguyen intended to train 30 fighters for an attack in December. Prosecutors believe that he "planned to make his way to Pakistan and reemerge as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum."
In addition to the charge that he supported terrorism, Nguyen was also charged with making false statements on his passport application, including using the aforementioned moniker as for his intended new identity. According to a Facebook profile registered with the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, Nguyen allegedly traveled to Lebanon late last year and then crossed over into Syria with the intention of assisting the Free Syrian Army. Agents said that he bragged about killing at least one person while there. While prosecutors claim that Nguyen had extensive training from spending time at firing ranges, the judge presiding over the case questioned prosecutors about his military abilities, citing that he had been rejected by the military due to a hearing problem.
Nguyen's mother said that he had converted to Islam last year, though according to The Los Angeles Times, "family members have expressed shock at the allegations, describing the man as someone who was exploring religions and sometimes attended Sunday Mass with his mother." His attorney also stated that his activity in Syria could not be reliably linked to the activity of al-Qaeda.
Nguyen was on a bus headed to Mexico when he was arrested. He had in his possession almost $2000 in Syrian currency.
[Pictured: Free Syrian Army fighters take cover moments after shelling a rocket on government forces in northern Syria]