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03/29/2013

Orange County woman sentenced to 5 years for providing material support to terrorists

Defendant sent money to Pakistan to be used in attacks against US forces overseas

SANTA ANA, California – A Turkish citizen who resides in Orange County was sentenced Friday to five years in federal prison after admitting she provided material support to terrorists by wiring money to Pakistan to help fund attacks against American military personnel.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 40, of La Palma, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton Tucker. Mihalik pleaded guilty Aug. 10, 2012, to one count of providing material support to terrorists.

When she pleaded guilty, Mihalik specifically admitted she provided money to an individual in Pakistan with the intention that the money would be used to prepare for and carry out attacks against U.S. military personnel and other persons overseas. Using the alias "Cindy Palmer," Mihalik sent a total of $2,050 in three wire transfers to the person in Pakistan over the course of three weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

"International terrorists require a steady pipeline of money to maintain and support their operations," said U.D. Attorney André Birotte Jr. "The defendant in this case knowingly and deliberately made wire transfers to fund terrorist operations overseas, where contributions like these could have a significant and devastating impact on American interests."

The charges against Mihalik are the result of a probe by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

"The FBI is committed to the prevention of terrorist attacks targeting the United States," said Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "Through the partnerships of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, we will continue to hold accountable those who support terrorist causes by financing operations that target Americans and her interests."

Mihalik's "support for terrorism was knowing and intentional – not the product of undue influence or misguided good intentions and not aberrant conduct," federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. "In fact, as [Mihalik] herself told the FBI shortly after her arrest, she believed [the person in Pakistan] was a member of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and she knew he was using the money for mujahadin operations against American military forces in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region,..."

"While the sum of money involved in this case may not seem substantial, there's no doubt the funds this defendant sent overseas would have covered the cost of an attack on U.S. soldiers," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Money is the mother's milk of terrorism and we will move aggressively against those who provide financial support to groups and individuals bent on harming the U.S. and its allies."

Mihalik has been in federal custody since her arrest Aug. 27, 2011, as she prepared to board a flight to her native Turkey with a one-way ticket. As part of this case, Mihalik agreed that the United States can take away her immigration status and that she will be removed to Turkey after serving her prison sentence.