A 20-year-old Orange County man who allegedly wanted to help an Islamic terrorist group in Syria pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts related to passport fraud.
Adam Dandach, also known as Fadi Fadi Dandach, was ordered held earlier this month as a flight risk and a danger to the community after his arrest at John Wayne Airport en route to Turkey, according to court documents.
He appeared in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Monday, pleading not guilty to one felony count of making a false statement on a passport application and another of use of passport obtained through a false statement, according to Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek.
There could be additional developments in what Mrozek characterized as an “ongoing investigation.”
Dandach, a 2012 graduate of El Modena High School in Orange, was taken into custody on July 3 in Anaheim, a spokeswoman for the FBI said.
After being confronted and arrested by FBI agents at the airport on July 2, he allegedly told them he was traveling to Syria to pledge allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a jihadist al-Qaida breakaway group.
He told the agents he would “assist ISIS with anything ISIS asked him to do, and that he believed the killings of U.S. soldiers are justified killings,” stated a federal magistrate’s detention order dated July 3.
Dandach was indicted Wednesday on the two felony counts. He had applied for an expedited U.S. passport on June 17, saying he needed to replace a passport issued in December 2013. He allegedly wrote that he had accidentally thrown his passport away.
But Dandach’s brother told federal agents that their mother had hid the original passport after learning that her son planned to fly overseas on Dec. 25. She also took away money that Dandach intended to use during his planned travel, according to court documents.
It was not clear where Dandach had planned to travel in December, or how agents were tipped to Dandach’s alleged plans before his flight to Turkey on July 2.
When Dandach and his brother Ghasson Ghannoum spoke after the July 2 incident at the Orange County airport, Dandach allegedly admitted he had perjured himself on his passport application, according to a criminal complaint.
“Dandach stated that he was more disappointed that he did not get to go to Syria than (with) getting in trouble with law enforcement,” stated the July 3 complaint, filed by an FBI special agent with the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Two women appeared for Dandach’s hearing but they would not speak to a KTLA reporter and it was not clear how they were linked to him.
Dandach faces up to five years in prison for each charge. He was set to reappear in court Sept. 5.