The 21-year-old New York man arrested in Bozeman this year after an FBI investigation pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lying to agents about seeking out the terrorist organization ISIS.
Fabjan Alameti pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to law enforcement regarding terrorism, a charge that carries a maximum eight-year term in federal prison.
Alameti appeared at the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in Missoula on Wednesday with his federal public defender, John Rhodes.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Jeff Starnes told U.S. Magistrate Kathleen DeSoto during the hearing that federal authorities came across Alameti during a terrorist investigation in 2018, interviewing Alameti at his Bronx, New York, home.
An undercover FBI agent subsequently maintained contact with Alameti across a pro-ISIS Facebook group, tracking him as he relocated to Bozeman in March. Alameti was an Albanian national who obtained citizenship in the U.S., Starnes said, and had planned to use his Albanian passport to relocate to Syria and fight the U.S. with ISIS.
His internet searches included how to make bombs, and what kinds of blast radii certain devices would create, Starnes said. His targets included gay clubs, federal buildings and a U.S. Army recruiting center.
Charging documents show Alameti came to Montana in March and watched the video of a New Zealand shooter slaughtering people at two mosques there on March 15. He had hoped to avenge the shooting, Starnes said.
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"He came to Montana because all they need is a background check or an ID" to purchase a firearm, Starnes said during the hearing.
While staying at a Bozeman hotel, Alameti was hospitalized for alcohol intoxication. A hotel manager unhappy with Alameti smoking marijuana in the hotel room turned over all his belongings to law enforcement. After his release from the hospital, Alameti went to the law and justice center there to collect his things, but was brought into an interrogation room.
During that interview, Alameti told authorities he never talked about traveling overseas to fight for ISIS, and never wanted to hurt any Americans or anyone in the military.
"What did you do that was false?" DeSoto asked him at the Wednesday hearing.
"Lying to them about terrorism," Alameti responded.
He was turned loose after the interview in Bozeman and taken into custody again when he went to a gun range and rented an M1A rifle.
Alameti will be subject to a pre-sentencing investigation prior to his sentencing date, which has not yet been set.