A 19-year-old Jacksonville man was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.
According to the indictment, Shelton Bell devised a plan to travel to the Arabian Peninsula and join Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), an alias for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and participate in violent armed conflict, which he termed "jihad."
AAS has taken responsibility for multiple attacks on Yemeni forces, including a suicide bombing during a parade in May 2012, that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers and a series of armed assaults in March 2012, killing more than 100 people, including Yemeni soldiers.
The indictment alleges that between May 2012 and September, Bell and others engaged in physical, firearms, and other training in preparation for armed conflict in the Middle East, which Bell described as "the actions of jihad." Bell allegedly solicited other individuals, including juveniles, to travel overseas with him in furtherance of this conspiracy.
Bell (pictured, right) made video and audio recordings intended to be distributed to others once he arrived in the Middle East, for the purpose of soliciting and recruiting others there to participate in violent jihad, according to the indictment.
In September, Bell and a juvenile traveled to Amman, Jordan and made contact with an individual who could facilitate their travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad.
Thursday the Federal Government said, "Bell worked to create training videos and recruit others for "jihad."
If convicted, Bell faces up to 15 years in federal prison on each of the two charges. Bell is currently detained in the Duval County jail on unrelated charges of grand theft, organized fraud and knowingly and intentionally participating in a motor vehicle crash. He was arrested Jan. 29.
"Like I said, that’s crazy, I’ve never heard ," said Jeremy Moseley. "You’d think it’d be somebody older guy from middle east but kid my age doing that stuff? That’s all I can say, that’s crazy ," said Moseley.
According to Jacksonville police, Bell worked at the Pecan Park Flea Market, and instead of fixing customers' computers, he cleared out his booth and left the flea market with all the items last year.
Bell bought a one-way ticket from the U.S. to Israel and spent about two months in the Middle East, according to a police report. He was arrested about three weeks after he returned, never making any efforts to return the customers' property, according to the report.
Ann Finnell, Bell's attorney on the state charges, said she knew that her client "was being looked at" by federal authorities.
"I don't have any information about what is alleged in this indictment," she said.
One of the chilling aspects of the grand jury indictment is that Bell used a Jacksonville cemetery near Craig Air field as a training ground, leading a group in dark clothes, gloves, masks and damaging religious statues on the property.
Finnell said Bell grew up in Jacksonville where his parents still live, and is a graduate of Englewood High School.
It's unclear whether Bell has retained an attorney on the federal charges. Finnell said it's likely that a federal public defender will be appointed to him.
Bell is facing two charges that could put him behind bars for 30 years.