Two Milwaukee men were charged in federal court Friday with trying to join the Islamic State group by traveling through Mexico to Syria.
Jason Michael Ludke, 35, was charged with attempting to support a foreign terrorist organization, and Yosvany Padilla-Conde, 30, was charged with aiding and abetting Ludke. Each faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
According to the complaint, Ludke and Padilla-Conde began corresponding on social media with an undercover FBI employee last month and said they planned to travel to Mexico, where they could get passage to Syria and join the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Ludke said he converted to Islam in 2003 and wanted to live under Sharia, or Islamic law. He also said he was tired of living under the infidels' system and wanted to strive for paradise.
The undercover FBI employee received an email on October 1 containing a video of Padilla-Conde and Ludke with a handmade Islamic State group flag in the background. Ludke said Padilla-Conde was striving to reach paradise as well, according to the complaint.
The undercover employee told Ludke that people in Mexico would be able to get them passports for Arab counties. On October 5, Ludke told the employee that he and Padilla-Conde were in Texas heading toward El Paso. Police captured them near San Angelo later that day.
Meeting with brother-in-law
Ludke told FBI agents that he and Padilla-Conde left Wisconsin because they couldn't pay their rent and he was looking to meet his brother-in-law in Mexico, although he couldn't provide his brother-in-law's name or information on his whereabouts. Ludke added he and Padilla-Conde discussed traveling to Yemen so Ludke could study Arabic, according to the complaint.
Padilla-Conde told agents he left Wisconsin because he was about to be evicted and Ludke wanted to travel to Iraq or Yemen to take part in jihad, an Arabic term for holy war, and often spoke of joining the Islamic State, according to the complaint. He said he tried to talk Ludke out of it, the complaint said.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the men had attorneys. The federal public defender's office said no defenders were listed for them in Texas. Court records show Ludke was without counsel during an initial court appearance in Texas on Wednesday. Padilla-Conde was scheduled to make his initial appearance in Abilene on Monday.
Joshua Van Haften of Madison was charged last year with trying to travel to Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State. His case is still pending in federal court. A plea hearing has been set for Tuesday.