WRAL Investigates

Accused ISIS recruiter pleads guilty to fraud, tax charges

Posted November 13, 2017 11:39 a.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2017 5:53 p.m. EST

— A Fayetteville man who the FBI says was a recruiter for Islamic State forces pleaded guilty Monday to federal fraud and tax charges.

Houcine Becher Ghoul, 43, pleaded guilty to lying on his application for U.S. citizenship and two counts of tax fraud. He faces up to 16 years in prison when he is sentenced in February.

Ghoul, a native of Tunisia, admitted to lying when asked on his citizenship application whether he supported a terrorist organization, and he also married several women in an attempt to obtain citizenship. The tax charges are for not reporting all of his income and for improper use of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

He doesn't face any terror-related charges because court documents show no specific evidence that he he financed or planned to carry out terrorism.

The FBI began investigating Ghoul in 2014 after a Facebook post on an account associated with his name indicated support of terrorism.

Investigators tracked his social media accounts, one of which included a photo of a man in a convenience store holding a handmade sign that reads, "The American support for the Islamic State" in Arabic. Below it, in English, it says, "ISIS, North Carolina USA." That photo later appeared in a propaganda video released on an ISIS YouTube channel.

​The FBI used undercover sources to make contact with Ghoul when he worked at the Snack Attack convenience store in Fayetteville. He was fired from the store in 2015.

An informant said Ghoul bragged that he had sent as many as 13 people overseas to support ISIS activities.

Agents also went through Ghoul's many Twitter accounts, which have since been deactivated. On one of his pages, Ghoul described himself as an "extremist, terrorist, tough, brain-washed, radical, I love explosions, booby trapping, beheading the enemy."

WRAL Investigates searched for conversations using Ghoul's Twitter names - most were in Arabic. When translated, some supported Ghoul's views, but there are also a number of responses that accuse Ghoul of being misguided about Islam.