Brother of San Diego man killed fighting for ISIS sentenced

SAN DIEGO — The brother of the first American known to have died fighting for the Islamic State was sentenced Friday in federal court in San Diego to 10 years in prison for stockpiling an illegal cache of weapons and making false statements to federal agents about international terrorism.

Marchello McCain, a previously convicted violent felon, admitted to making false statements to FBI agents about his knowledge of the purpose of his notorious sibling’s travels abroad and the methods of payment and source of funding for them.

McCain, 35, also conceded that shortly before brother Douglas McCain’s departure to fight in Syria 14 years ago, the two went to a San Diego shooting range and fired various guns, including an AR-15-style rifle and a 12- gauge shotgun.

In addition, Marchello McCain acknowledged that he possessed about 10 firearms, among them a stolen gun and several 9 mm pistols, an AR-15-style rifle and a .30-caliber M1 carbine with a large-capacity magazine.

“ISIS has brought the war on terror closer to home by directing and inspiring attacks in the U.S. and other countries, thereby putting American lives in danger,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “By lying to federal agents, Marchello McCain delayed, frustrated and thwarted an investigation into a group that supplied U.S. and Canadian fighters to ISIS.”

In January 2016, Marchello McCain, who was previously convicted of two felony crimes in Minnesota involving assault with a firearm, pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of guns, ammunition and body armor by a violent felon.

Eight months later, he entered a guilty plea to making false statements to FBI agents concerning his assistance to and knowledge of individuals providing material support — personnel and money — to people engaged in violent terrorist activities abroad, including his sibling and Canadian national and one-time San Diegan Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi.

Douglas McCain departed the United States in March 2014 and traveled to Syria, where he joined and fought with ISIS. About five months later, he was killed there while fighting against the Free Syrian Army.

Following Douglas McCain’s death, agents with an FBI terrorism task force interviewed his brother on several occasions. In January 2015, Marchello McCain was arrested on federal firearms charges.

Marchello McCain’s false statements were not only intended to prevent the U.S. government from finding out about the involvement of Abdullahi and others in terror-related activities but also were meant to prevent the discovery of his own culpability, according to prosecutors.

As detailed in court documents, Marchello McCain’s involvement included agreeing to travel to Syria and join his brother in violent jihadist activities; assisting Douglas McCain and others in traveling to Syria to engage in violent jihadist activities; depositing cash into his wife’s bank account and letting his brother use his wife’s credit card to buy plane tickets to Turkey, a known entry point for foreign fighters seeking to enter Syria; regularly communicating with Douglas McCain and others regarding the financial and logistical needs of foreign fighters in Syria; and wiring $800 to an ISIS operative in Turkey to support his brother’s jihadist activities.

In March 2017, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California returned a two-count sealed indictment charging Abdullahi with providing material support to terrorists.

Canadian authorities arrested Abdullahi on Sept. 15, pursuant to an extradition request by the United States. He is detained in Canadian custody without bail, pending an extradition hearing scheduled for May 31.

According to an indictment, Abdullahi conspired to provide personnel and money to people engaged in terrorist activities, including killings and kidnappings, in Syria.

Members of the conspiracy, including Abdullahi, wired money to third-party intermediaries in Gaziantep, Turkey, to support people who were fighting and engaging in terrorism in Syria, prosecutors allege.

About three months after Douglas McCain’s death, the remaining four co-conspirators all were killed in Syria as well, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.