(DENVER) — A 19-year-old suburban Denver woman met an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighter online, fell in love, vowed to go to Syria to fight and was arrested by the FBI as she tried to go overseas, U.S. authorities said.
Shannon Maureen Conley, of Arvada, Colorado, was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, ISIS, after agents arrested her at Denver International Airport on April 8 as she tried to board a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, according to a U.S. criminal complaint and a supporting affidavit. She allegedly had connecting flights to Istanbul, Turkey, and then to Adana, Turkey, just a few hours’ drive from the Syrian border.
Conley, licensed as a certified nurse’s aide in Colorado, according to the affidavit, told investigators that she hoped to meet her online suitor in Syria and reside with him near the Turkish border as his wife and a camp nurse. Her parents told investigators her suitor was a 32-year-old Tunisian man, whose name is redacted in the documents.
“When Conley told the suitor she wants to provide his camp with medical services and training, he told her that was good because they needed more nurses,” the affidavit read. “Conley stated that she was aware that her plans were potentially illegal and she could possibly get arrested, and therefore she has no intention to return to the U.S.”
“Conley mentioned an incident where an individual was arrested for attempting to go fight in Syria. She told [investigators] there was nothing they could do to change her mind and that she was still going, although she admitted, ‘I know things can go terribly wrong.’ When asked if she would engage in actual combat on the battlefield, Conley said, ‘If it was absolutely necessary, then yes. I wouldn’t like it…but I would do it,'” according to the affidavit.
Earlier, Conley had told an FBI agent in December that she “joined the U.S. Army Explorers (USAE) to be trained in U.S. military tactics and in firearms,” according to court papers.
“She said she intended to use that training to go overseas to wage jihad,” the affidavit added. “She also intended to train Islamic Jihadi fighters in U.S. military tactics. She previously wanted to serve in the U.S. military but no longer wanted to because she felt the military would not accept her due to her religious beliefs and her wearing of a hijab and niqab.”
Conley first came to the attention of investigators in November after she was reported behaving suspiciously at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, the scene of a 2007 shooting incident, according to the affidavit.
Officials repeatedly and openly seemed to try to dissuade Conley from acting out on her stated aims to join ISIS, which subsequently gained a higher profile in the U.S. media for military victories against the government of Iraq. Officials even enlisted Conley’s parents, who were described as opposing Conley’s plans to travel to the Mideast and her desire to marry her Tunisian suitor.
The April 9 court documents were unsealed Wednesday after an order by a federal judge, according to Jeff Dorschner of the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“There was a detention hearing where we argued she was a danger to the community and a risk for flight, so she was ordered held without bond pending the resolution of the case,” Dorschner said. “Since then, there was some litigation. We are currently in the motions phase….No trial date has yet been scheduled and she remains in custody.”
Dorschner said federal officials did not oppose the release of a redacted version of the documents.
“At the time of her arrest, there was an active criminal investigation…[so] the records remained sealed,” Dorschner said. “The investigation is…at a point where the redacted documents won’t compromise it.”
Shannon Conley’s father, John Conley, told ABC News, “At this time we have no comment.”
Her public defender, Robert Pepin, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
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