Suspected ISIS backer held for attack plot to attack New York restaurant on New Year's Eve

A member of the New York City Police department's Hercules team patrols in Times Square as crowds gather for New Year's Eve celebrations.
A member of the New York City Police department's Hercules team patrols in Times Square as crowds gather for New Year's Eve celebrations. PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A 25-year-old man who planned to attack a restaurant in Rochester, New York, on New Year's Eve has been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

"The FBI thwarted Emanuel Lutchman's intent to kill civilians on New Year's Eve," a Justice Department statement quoted FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam S Cohen as saying. "The FBI remains concerned about people overseas who use the Internet to inspire people in the United States to commit acts of violence where they live."

Lutchman, claiming to have received direction from an alleged member of ISIS wanted to target a restaurant in Rochester, where he lives, according to a criminal complaint filed against him. He was arrested on Wednesday.

The complaint said Lutchman told a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation that they could plant a bomb inside the establishment and also kidnap and kill people. "I will take a life. I don't have a problem with that,"Lutchman said, according to the complaint, which noted that he planned to use knives during the attack.

The complaint described Lutchman as a "self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history dating back to approximately 2006 ... as well as previous state mental hygiene arrests."

Lutchman appeared in US District Court for the Western District of New York on Thursday. The charge he faces carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a US$250,000 (S$345,605) fine.

The complaint said that in November and December Lutchman expressed support for ISIS in telephone conversations with another paid informant for the FBI. It said he had been in contact this month with a person claiming to be a member of the ISIS militant group in Syria.

On Tuesday, he went to a Walmart store in Rochester with one of the informants and bought two black ski masks, zip-tie fasteners, two knives, a machete, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves for the planned attack, the complaint said.

He had no money and the informant paid about US$40 for the supplies, it said.

The City of Rochester said on Twitter it had canceled a fireworks display set for Thursday night.

Police Chief Michael Ciminelli said there was no credible threat but cancelling the fireworks would allow more police officers to be available elsewhere in the city as a precaution, according to ABC affiliate WHAM-TV.