A Florida college student was arrested Thursday for allegedly hiding online talks with a New Jersey man facing federal charges for planning synagogue attacks.
USF student Christopher Raymond Joseph, 18, is charged with record tampering in a federal investigation. In a criminal complaint obtained Thursday by The Daily Beast, Joseph informed the FBI he was “LARPing” as a terrorist online.
Joseph, who officials say possessed guns, may be imprisoned until nearly 40.
Joseph was interviewed by the FBI in November and reportedly deleted communications with 18-year-old Omar Alkattoul, who was arrested last month for planning strikes in his native state.
Alkattoul allegedly told Joseph online that he had spoken to Al Qaeda and considered striking a synagogue or gay bar.
Adrian Burden, Joseph’s court-appointed attorney, didn’t respond to Thursday’s request for comment. USF representatives declined to comment. Raymond, Joseph’s father, missed a Thursday afternoon call.
The FBI located Joseph on Alkattoul’s phone following his November arrest. Officers found an Oct. 29 “encrypted messaging application” contact to Joseph, who Alkattoul called “C.J.”
His father told The Daily Beast that Alkattoul was “talking with bad people on the internet” after prison.
Alkattoul and Joseph’s meeting isn’t mentioned in the complaint. Since Hurricane Ian, Alkattoul knew “CJ” lived in Florida. Joseph, whose mother is Syrian, was “LARP-ing” as an ISIS or AQ sympathizer.
The complaint states that FBI agents subpoenaed web and phone records to find and question “C.J.” at USF on November 5.
Joseph stated he was only pretending to support ISIS and would never strike. Joseph told the agents that he “LARPs and/or talks about racist stuff” on one unidentified social media site and “follows pro-ISIS channels and that he views videos inciting people to join ISIS,” the complaint states.
During the 42-minute talk, Joseph “voluntarily consented to take investigators to his dorm room to check the contents of his phone,” but an agent allegedly saw Joseph discreetly wipe one of the multiple big blocks of online dialogue between him and Alkattoul, which killed him.
The FBI claimed Alkattoul discussed gun and ammo acquisition in the texts Joseph removed.
According to the complaint, one agent warned Joseph about “an individual traveling to Afghanistan and committing jihad,” ending the voluntary talk.
Joseph reconsidered and ran outside to talk to the agents before they left campus. The lawsuit claims Joseph told the agents that Alkattoul “slowly grew radicalized” after speaking for a year and a half.
Joseph never took Alkattoul seriously. After receiving his phone again, agents found that one conversation thread was gone.
Joseph informed the complainant he deleted it because he “did not want to get in trouble” and was “embarrassed.”
Joseph called Alkattoul after the agent interview. Alkattoul was accused of not responding.
In a deleted chat, Joseph told Alkattoul he wanted a concealed carry permit and preferred “shotguns over rifles,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit claims Joseph investigated Florida and New Jersey weapons laws in October.
The lawsuit claims Joseph searched Lucky Gunner for 7.62×39 and 223 ammunition.
“As an ISIS recruiter, I advise you to erase all your songs from multiple platforms before serious consequences happen,” Joseph tweeted two days before his FBI interview.
After the FBI interview on Nov. 6, Joseph allegedly tweeted, “Oh shit wait did I say that right? Condone? Approve? Whatever New statement—
“I DO NOT SUPPORT TERRORISM OR ANY TERRORIST GROUP EVERYTHING I SAY ONLINE THAT PROVES OTHERWISE IS BECAUSE THEY WERE JOKES AND I WAS LARPING.”
“I’m READY,” Joseph tweeted on Nov. 9, 2020, with a “picture of a firearm with a sticker on the magazine of the weapon.”
“The same picture of the firearm appears numerous additional times on Joseph’s Twitter, especially again on November 7, 2020, when Joseph replies to another user and tweets, ‘I have guns in my shed.’”