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Published: Fri, February 24, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Missouri Man Charged With Planning ISIS-Inspired Terrorist Attack

Missouri Man Charged With Planning ISIS-Inspired Terrorist Attack

The suspect allegedly thought the terrorist attacks would take place on Presidents' Day and would involve buses, trains and a Kansas City train station.

The Justice Department said in a news release that Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., a 25-year-old USA citizen from Columbia, Missouri, "was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support" to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - a designated terrorist organization.

The 25-year-old Hester of Jefferson City allegedly contacted the undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation employee on February 2 via a text message and five other times right up until his arrest Friday, just days before Monday's national holiday.

Investigators accuse Hester of having a role in preparing to launch a terrorist attack with people whom he believed were militants with the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIL and ISIS, but who were instead undercover law enforcement agents, the Justice Department said in a statement. The FBI was "made aware" of Hester's postings on social media accounts in which he said he'd "converted to Islam, expressed animus towards the United States, and posted photos of weapons and the ISIS flag", the affidavit said.

Federal prosecutors say Hester wanted the attack to be "10 times more" devastating than the Boston Marathon bombing.

On Feb. 17, Hester met with another undercover employee and provided more nails before they went to a storage facility, where Hester believed the components would be stored, the complaint said. When talking to the undercover agents, he actually implied that the United States was "the true terrorist", saying it would be good to strike back.

Such discharges are typically given for "service members whose service is satisfactory, but involved situations where the soldier's conduct and/or performance of duty were not so meritorious to warrant an honorable discharge", an Army spokeswoman told the Kansas City Star, noting that those generally discharged typically "have engaged in minor misconduct or have received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice".

His wife would not comment when reached by the newspaper Tuesday. The documents quote Hester as responding: "I'm just ready to help". If found guilty, Hester could face up to 20 years in prison.

When asked if he wanted out of the plot, Hester said, "I'm down".

The list included 9-volt batteries, duct tape, copper wire and roofing nails.

Other neighbors said they didn't know Hester or his family but said news of his arrest had shocked them.

At Tuesday's court hearing, a judge ordered that Hester remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.

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