Former Elkhart resident charged with supporting terrorism to stay behind bars

Published: Dec. 20, 2018 at 5:42 PM EST
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The former Elkhart woman charged with supporting terrorism was once a paid informant for the FBI.

That information came out at a hearing Thursday at a U.S. District Court in Hammond.

According to court documents, 32-year-old Samantha Elhassani was married in 2012 and raised her family in Elkhart, where she and her husband ran a shipping business called “Viabox.”

“She worked for [the FBI] for almost two years, supplying information (serial numbers) about cellphones being shipped overseas (Yemen),” defense attorney Thomas Durkin said.

The defense suggested the cellphone information was being used to fight terrorism, which the government denied.

The backbone of the case against Elhassani stems from her frequent flights to the likes of Hong Kong and Turkey, where she allegedly moved family assets such as gold and cash and took along one of the family’s minor children in an apparent attempt to avoid suspicion.

In mid-2015, Samantha’s husband, Moussa, is alleged to have crossed the Syrian border and joined the Islamic State.

On Thursday in court, it was argued that Samantha Elhassani is a Baptist, not a Muslim, and that she was not a supporter or member of ISIS.

“The terrorist is dead. The only person who provided material support to ISIS is her husband and the brother (Moussa’s brother), and he’s dead. He was killed fighting,” Durkin told reporters after the hearing.

Durkin argued that Samantha only did things to support her husband’s plans – before he joined ISIS.

“Don’t you find it odd that somebody who is accused of providing material support to ISIS is put in an ISIS prison camp, thought of as a spy, tortured, hung from the rafters, and was raped?” Durkin asked.

“Moussa’s always been crazy, since I've known him, for years,” Samantha’s sister Lori Sally told reporters after the hearing.

The defense further argued that everything Samantha did at the direction of a husband who was domineering.

“She wouldn’t be the first person in the U.S. to not be able to get away from a domineering crazy person, and you know, the government can claim all they want, she didn’t say that that day, how many, I mean what, that's kind of a wrongheaded view of mistreatment of women. They’re a little bit behind the times,” said Durkin.

Attorneys in the case also talked about a disturbing video that allegedly shows one of the Elhassani’s minor children discuss the components in a suicide belt before being asked off camera what kind of fuse should be used if he encountered “American pigs.”

Elhassani allegedly admitted she took the video — at her husband’s direction.

Judge Philip P. Simon said the evidence he heard was a “mixed bag,” as he ruled against letting Elhassani out of jail to attend to mental health matters.

Samantha Elhassani was said to be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.