Thomas Osadzinski is a DePaul University student and Illinois native who is accused by federal prosecutors in Chicago of attempting to provide support to ISIS by designing a computer script that would make it easier for the terror group to access and share propaganda on a social media platform.
The 20-year-old Osadzinski was arrested on November 19, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a press release.
“The complaint alleges that Osadzinski designed a process that uses a computer script to make ISIS propaganda more conveniently accessed and disseminated by users on a social media platform,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “Osadzinski earlier this year shared his script – and instructions for how to use it – with individuals whom he believed to be ISIS supporters and members of pro-ISIS media organizations, the complaint states. Unbeknownst to Osadzinski, the individuals were actually covert FBI employees and a person confidentially working with law enforcement, according to the complaint.”
Osadzinski could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it is not clear if he has hired or been appointed an attorney who could speak on his behalf. He appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday, November 19.
Here’s what you need to know about Thomas Osadzinski:
1. Osadzinski Created the Computer Script for ISIS & Its Supporters to Use on the Social Media App Telegram, the FBI Says
Thomas Osadzinski is accused of creating the computer script for the so-called Islamic State for ISIS and its supporters to use on the social media app Telegram. Federal authorities did not name Telegram as the social media platform in court documents, but the description of the app matches Telegram.
The FBI said he called his plan to create the script and share it with ISIS and ISIS supporters, “Operation: Heralds of the Internet.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office said in its press release, “ISIS and its supporters disseminate the terror group’s propaganda materials online to as wide an audience as possible in order to recruit fighters and inspire violence against the United States and other countries. Social media platforms routinely remove ISIS media content due to the violent nature of the materials. According to the complaint, Osadzinski’s computer process would automatically copy and preserve ISIS media postings in an organized format, allowing social media users to continue to conveniently access and disseminate the content.”
The FBI began its investigation into Osadzinski in June 2018 after he posted on a pro-ISIS Telegram channel called “Weapons,” and began exchanging online messages with an undercover FBI employee, according to the criminal complaint.
The full criminal complaint can be read here.
2. He Shared Pictures of the ISIS Flag With the Undercover Agents & Swore Allegiance to the New ISIS Leader After al-Baghdadi’s Death in November 2019, the FBI Says
Osadzinski sent photos of an ISIS flag and an ISIS propaganda poster to undercover agents, according to court documents. He sent a photo of the poster on his apartment bedroom wall via Telegram and wrote that he had printed off the poster at the DePaul University library.
He also sent an undercover FBI employee a photo of an ISIS flag that the FBI says was taken in his apartment. The flag can be seen in front of an open laptop computer.
On November 2, 2019, Osadzinski sent the undercover FBI employee another photo of an ISIS flag with a handwritten note on it saying, “I renew my pledge to Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, in the land of America.”
Al-Qurashi was named as the new leader of ISIS after the October 2019 death of its previous leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
3. Osadzinski Is Scheduled to Graduate from DePaul University in 2021 With Degrees in Computer Science & Software Development
Osadzinkski is scheduled to graduate from DePaul University in 2021 with degrees in computer science and software development, according to his Linkedin profile. He has been studying there since 2017.
He worked as a sales associate in the electronics department of Target on a part-time basis from October 2015 to December 2017 at its Glenview store, he wrote on Linkedin. He also spent time working as a software tester at Cylance Inc. as a contractor from March 2019 to April 2019. And he has worked part-time in information technology at DePaul since September 2019, according to his Linkedin profile. DePaul has not commented about his arrest.
According to court documents, Osadzinski was born in Park Ridge, Illinois. He lives in an apartment building on North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, federal authorities said.
4. He Used Emojis to Tell an Undercover Agent That He Would Commit a Car Bombing if He Was Ever Drafted by the U.S. Military, the FBI Says
In one discussion with an undercover FBI employee, Osadzinski talked about military recruiters and Selective Service Registration, the FBI said. He told the undercover employee he was would not be picked for military service because he is on a “terrorist watch list,” according to the criminal complaint.
He said, according to the complaint, “if they pick me … [eyeball emoji] [car emoji] [dynamite emoji].”
The FBI wrote, “Based on the context in which the emojis were used, I understand that Osadzinski meant that if he was ever drafted by the U.S. military, he would commit a car bombing attack.”
According to court documents, Osadzinski also sent a photo to an undercover FBI employee of Trump Tower in downtown Chicago and asked if the undercover employee if he knew anyone who can write in Arabic. Osadzinski told the agent he wanted to Photoshop onto the photo an Arabic phrae meaning, “The Islamic State of the Caliphate…Soon Allah willing.”
5. Osadzinski, Who Faces Up to 20 Years in Federal Prison, Was Ordered Held Pending a Detention Hearing on November 22
Thomas Osadzinski is being held in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday, November 22. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, prosecutors say.
Osadzinski appeared “before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole in Chicago and was ordered held without bond. Judge Cole scheduled a detention hearing for Friday at 9:30 a.m.,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said.
“The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The material support charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago says.
Prosecutors added, “The complaint and arrest were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.
“The case was investigated by the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas, Melody Wells and Tiffany Ardam of the Northern District of Illinois, and Alexandra Hughes, Trial Attorney of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.”