A federal judge in New Jersey has sentenced an Army veteran two nearly three years in prison after she admitted to providing money, weapons and ammunition to a terrorist organization in Syria.
Maria Bell, 55, also known as “Maria Sue Bell” received a 34-month sentence Tuesday after pleading guilty to a charge of concealing attempts to “provide material support” to Syrian foreign terrorist organizations.
The Hopatcong, New Jersey resident served previously in the active Army and Army National Guard, according to Military.com.
When FBI agents arrested her on the same charges in November 2020, they found 136 handguns and rifles, 15 canisters of ammunition and a short-range rocket launcher in her two-bedroom home, according to court documents.
In a later court appearance, Bell’s attorney said the weapons were her deceased husband’s. Many of the weapons were antiques and her husband had worked at an armory.
Bell admitted that from February to November 2018 she disguised her communications and support with fighters based in Syria, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office release.
The Army veteran confessed that she knew Jabhat Fath al-sham, also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham were “designated terrorist organizations,” according to the release.
She sent money and provided advice on weapons and ammunition, according to court documents.
Though she pleaded to the 2018 period, court documents note she began her communication with at least one member of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in February 2017 and sent “thousands of encrypted communications to the recipient,” NJ.com reported.
The recipient’s name was not disclosed in court documents.
During the time period listed, Bell sent at least 18 payments totaling $3,150 to recipients in both Turkey and Syria, “knowing that the funds would support acts of terrorism by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
Authorities stopped her at a New York City airport when she attempted to travel to Turkey in 2018, NJ.com reported.
Some of her communications with terrorist organizations were included in court documents.
“Are you ready to fight in front line with other fighters?” Bell asked the person. “You are no longer young child like you used to be. It will be frightening. But I am with you.”
Bell must also serve five years of supervised release after her federal prison term ends, according to the prosecutor’s statement.