A California college student and National Guard enlistee was captured Monday after an FBI investigation revealed a foiled plot to attack the Los Angeles subway system and plans to help al-Qaida, officials said.
Nicholas Michael Teausant, 20, of Acampo, Calif., was arrested near the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash. and charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a news release.
Teausant is a student at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton, officials said.
An enlistee with the National Guard based in Stockton, Teausant went to the Canadian border in hopes of traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or al-Qaida, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Teausant's National Guard "training was minimal," and "due to his lack of required academic credits, he never attended basic training," the complaint alleged. He was in the process of being released by the National Guard, but he has not yet been officially released and remains a reservist with the rank of "private," according to the complaint.
An earlier version of this story identified Teausant as a National Guardsman based on the description contained in the complaint, but a spokesman for the Guard took issue with that characterization. Teausant enlisted with the Guard in 2012 but "never trained or served as a solider in the California National Guard," Capt. Will Martin, chief of media relations with the California Military Department wrote in a statement.
Teausant allegedly said in a phone call that while on a post-Thanksgiving camping trip, his group discussed "hitting" Los Angeles subways with a targeted attack on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, according to the complaint.
According to prosecutors, Teausant made inquiries about buying fireworks "with the biggest boom" and subsequently texted a friend advising, "Don’t go to LA Anytime soo Akhi Please trust me on this… and if you do don’t use the subway."
When asked about what happened to the plan, Teausant said "they had been tipped off" and the plan was off, the complaint alleged, adding that he met his "contacts regarding the subway plan on Facebook" and "all these red flags are like popping in my head."
A five-month investigation found Teausant had "explored ways of supporting violent extremist activities and providing material support to various terrorist organizations, culminating in his attempt to join" al-Qaida, the complaint alleged.
Teausant allegedly told a confidant that "his goal was maximum fear and a maximum blow to the US government so he could watch it tumble and fall in the wake of a civil war," according to the complaint.
Teausant was making preparations to fight in Syria and told his confidant he planned to “train fighters in Syria to shoot properly,” according to the complaint. His plan allegedly involved first going to Canada via Greyhound to maintain a low profile.
Prosecutors allege that he confided to his source that he planned to travel during a school break, telling his mom he would be snowboarding at Mount Whistler in Canada, which would ease any concerns over his need for a passport.
If convicted, Teausant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.