A one-time Brooklyn resident faces 20 years in prison for allegedly serving Islamic terrorist group ISIS as a high-ranking sniper, according to federal court documents unsealed Friday.
Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 41, has provided training, services, and personnel to the designated terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham for the last five years, according to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.
The suspect — a naturalized United States citizen born in Kazakhstan — lived in Brooklyn from 1998 until December 2013, when he left his Bay Ridge home to travel to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS as a marksman, before rising to the rank of “emir,” when he began training other members and attempting to recruit additional radicals from the U.S. — betraying his adopted country, Donoghue said.
“The defendant, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Brooklyn, turned his back on the country that took him in and joined ISIS, serving its violent ends in Syria and attempting to recruit others to its cause,” stated Donoghue.
The defendant fought for ISIS for at least a year after he arrived in Syria, a U.S. based informant told agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who also reviewed messages the pair exchanged between 2014 and 2015.
After the informant texted Asainov to ask him about ISIS, he tried to recruit the English speaking whistleblower for the group’s media operations, telling him that the terrorist organization would provide him a job, housing, food, and a $50 stipend per month, noting that “even the grandmothers are coming,” according to authorities.
In March 2015, Asainov asked the informant to send him $2,800 so that he could buy a scope for his rifle, as well as other military equipment. The informant didn’t send the money, according to a spokesman for Donoghue.
The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces got a hold of Asainov, detaining him for several months before handing him over to federal agents, who transferred him to the U.S. on July 18, where he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Asainov was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold Friday afternoon, who ordered that he be held without bail until his next court date, which has not been set.
The former Brooklynite held his head down and answered Judge Gold’s questions only reluctantly, and his defense attorney claimed her client does not recognize the American court’s legal authority.
“I think he doesn’t recognize our courts to be a legitimate authority and he was making that point,” Susan Kellman told reporters outside the federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza E. after the arraignment.
Asainov has not been formally charged, and federal prosecutors have 30 days to make their case before a grand jury seeking an indictment.
The 5-feet 4-inch defendant sported a buzz cut and a short goatee on Friday, and appeared wearing a white t-shirt and black pants in court.
Kellman described him to reporters as “pleasant” and “respectful,” adding that he spoke fluent English from his 15 years of living in Kings County.
“His English is perfect and he lived in Brooklyn — he’s a Brooklyn boy,” she said.
He has family overseas, but Kellman said she wasn’t aware whether he had any relations in the U.S.
She also could not say how long Syrian forces kept Asainov in prison, or what the conditions were like there. The attorney did, however, note that other clients she’s dealt with reported brutal conditions overseas.
“I’ve talked to other clients in other cases and the conditions they were held in — they weren’t in Syria — but boy they don’t do such a good job in Libya or Djibouti,” Kellman said.