A Sussex County woman was sentenced Tuesday to two years and 10 months in prison after she admitted last year that she sent money to a foreign terrorist organization in Syria, federal prosecutors said.
Maria Bell, also known as “Maria Sue Bell,” 55, of Hopatcong, previously pleaded guilty to concealing attempts to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bell admitted that she sent money to a member of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a Syrian terrorist organization fighting the Assad regime.
Bell also provided advice on weapons and ammunition, according to a criminal complaint.
Bell previously served in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, and used her expertise in specialized weapons training, “to provide guidance concerning operational security issues, firearms purchases, and military knowledge,” authorities said.
She began communicating with one member of HTS, who was not identified, in February 2017 and sent thousands of encrypted communications to the person, according to the complaint.
“Are you ready to fight in front line with other fighters?” Bell is quoted as asked the person in the complaint. “You are no longer young child like you used to be. It will be frightening. But I am with you.”
Bell allegedly wired at least 18 payments totaling $3,150 to people in Turkey and Syria who are supporters of HTS, “knowing that the funds would support acts of terrorism by HTS,” authorities said.
In May 2018, HTS was added to the State Department’s database as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Bell was previously suspended from her job as an analyst with Atlantic Health Systems after the charges were announced in 2020, but her current standing with the company was unclear.
Thank you for relying on us to provide the local news you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a voluntary subscription.
Chris Sheldon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit nj.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.