Punta Gorda woman sentenced for attempt to support ISIS

A woman who tried to help ISIS was caught in Southwest Florida and now, she is going to be locked up for the next few years.

Alison Marie Sheppard, 35, aka “Aiisha Abdullah” of Punta Gorda was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in federal prison for buying cell phones intended to be used as ISIS detonation devices.

It took a lengthy investigation to catch her. The Punta Gorda woman bought and tried to ship 10 cellphones to the Middle East, where she believed they would be used as timers for pressure cooker bombs.

Sheppard even helped another man she met online travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. That person was caught by the FBI and started cooperating with them.

Online, Sheppard went by “Aiisha Abdullah” and swore allegiance to ISIS.

Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist explains, “These are the kind of people that really scare law enforcement, the FBI. These self-radicalized, lone wolves that are acting on their own.”

In 2017, court documents show Sheppard tried to support the Islamic State, a known terrorist organization, while she was in Punta Gorda.

“You can be radicalized no matter where you are in the world,” Kolko said. “All it means is turning on your computer or your smartphone. You’re seeing these speeches, these tapes. People think that’s the right way to go, but, clearly, it’s the wrong path.”

Sheppard used social media to find others who support ISIS and posted instructional videos and praised violent jihad.

Fortunately for the investigators, she left a big, digital footprint. That was pretty easy to find.

Sheppard thought two individuals she was communicating with online were ISIS supporters, but they were actually undercover officers.

Sheppard bought 10 cell phones from five stores in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and Rotonda West, planning to send them to ISIS for explosives.

Those phones ended up going to undercover officers.

She found out a way she thought she could help them, offered to purchase phones, send them overseas and possibly kill Americans or allies in foreign lands.

But that didn’t happen, and Sheppard was arrested.

Sheppard pleaded guilty to her charges in May 2019.

After Sheppard gets out of prison, she will be supervised for 15 years.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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