Virginia mom will stay in jail until trial on ISIS-related charges
RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) — A 29-year-old Virginia woman charged with lying to the FBI about alleged connections to the terror group ISIS will remain in jail until her trial.
Heather Coffman of Henrico County, Virginia, stood quietly in federal court in Richmond on Wednesday, where she waived her right to a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing.
Coffman, mother of a 7-year-old son, is accused of trying to help people go to Syria to take up arms with ISIS.
No court date was set at the hearing Wednesday for Coffman, who was dressed in a navy-blue jailhouse jumpsuit and bright orange rubber shoes, her brown hair unkempt and her face emotionless.
Authorities say they built their case against Coffman over several months using information from a series of undercover interviews and social media posts. Coffman first caught the attention of the FBI through her Facebook activity, according to a criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Investigators say Coffman, using the name Ubeida Ametova, listed her “work and education” on her Facebook account as “jihad for Allah’s sake” and posted images of ISIS fighters armed with AK-47s with captions including, “We are all ISIS” and “Virtues of the Mujahideen.”
Investigators say they also discovered a man whom Coffman claimed was her husband. According to Facebook communications detailed in the complaint, the man told Coffman he hoped their future son would be “Mujahideen” and Coffman agreed, expressing her support for “whatever you want to do.”
Several of Coffman’s neighbors told CNN there were indications she was increasingly observant of the Muslim faith but they saw no signs she was radicalized. They say they noticed a change in Coffman’s appearance about three months ago when she started wearing black burqas and headscarves.
Neighbor Adrian Ford said she found it “strange” when Coffman started wearing a burqa because she used to wear T-shirts and jeans.
Authorities say it was information gathered by an undercover FBI agent during a series of interviews with Coffman that led to the charges against her. Starting in July, an agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer routinely met with Coffman and began to investigate her recruitment network.
After establishing a relationship, the undercover agent told Coffman about an associate who shared their views on Islam and was prepared to join the fight with ISIS in Syria, according to the criminal complaint. Federal agents say Coffman revealed she had experience connecting potential recruits with ISIS facilitators.
The undercover agent met with Coffman three times, on November 5, 6 and 7, according to officials, who said she again offered to help find a contact and facilitate travel into Syria.
On November 13, two FBI agents met with Coffman at her work and interviewed her. Investigators say she lied when she denied the undercover agent ever expressed support for ISIS or similar terrorist groups. She was arrested the next day and charged with lying to the FBI.
Her attorneys and federal prosecutors all declined to comment to CNN.