Wisconsin Mother Pleads Guilty To Terrorism Charges

Cudahy Woman Allegedly Used Social Media In Attempts To Aid Islamic State

Scales of justice
Jesse Loughborough (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Two people pleaded guilty in national security- and terrorism-related charges Monday in Milwaukee.

Waheba Issa Dais, a Cudahy mother of seven, agreed to plead guilty to trying to plan terrorist attacks on behalf of the Islamic State by distributing information on making explosives and biological weapons.

Federal prosecutors held a news conference Monday to discuss Dais’ conviction. She initially pleaded not guilty to two counts of providing material support to terrorists, but she changed her plea last month in exchange for prosecutors dropping one of the counts.

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Prosecutors say the woman tried to recruit people online to carry out attacks for the Islamic State and provided them with information on how to make explosives and poisons.

Court documents say she used hacked social media accounts, including Facebook, to discuss possible attacks with self-proclaimed members of the Islamic State. Authorities never connected her to any attack plots.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Milwaukee Field Office and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which contains officials at the local, state and federal level, conducted the investigations that led to the arrests and convictions.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said Dais’ case demonstrates the virtual reach of terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State, as well as their “continuing, evolving threat.”

“Although she did not leave her home to commit her crime, by using the internet, she spread ISIS’s message of violence to numerous individuals in countless places,” said Krueger. “Without people like Dais to perpetuate extremism online, ISIS’s reach would be much more constrained.”

Dais faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, a lifetime of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Dais, born in Jerusalem, was married to a U.S. citizen for more than a decade and remained in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident after her divorce, according to the FBI. Krueger said the criminal case will take precedence over any immigration matters at this time.

Yosvany Padilla-Conde, a Cuban national who resided in Milwaukee, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the attempt of Jason Luedke to provide material support to the Islamic State.

Luedke sought to join the Islamic State by traveling from Wisconsin to Mexico and then on to Syria and Iraq. He was convicted of attempting to materially support the Islamic State in 2018 and is currently incarcerated, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Krueger said Padilla-Conde swore allegiance to the Islamic State and stated his personal intent to travel to the Middle East in several videos. Padilla-Conde believed he was sending them to an Islamic State recruiter, but in fact sent them to an undercover FBI agent.

“This case underscores that homegrown violent extremism remains a very real threat. The case also highlights excellent collaboration by federal and local law enforcement to blunt the threat before innocent lives are taken,” Krueger said in a statement.

Padilla-Conde faces the same consequences as Dais.

Krueger opened his remarks Monday by acknowledging the bombings in Sri Lanka over the Easter holiday that killed more than 200 people.

“I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families who were impacted by the horrific and cowardly terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka,” said Krueger. “We mourn with the people of Sri Lanka.”

Krueger said the attacks were “the result of hate, a propensity toward violence and an intolerance toward the belief of others,” which he said are the values of the group Dais and Padilla-Conde sought to support.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include original reporting from WPR.