One of them is a petty crook. The other, a “most wanted terrorist.” They share an odd bond, however: the bounties the U.S. government has placed on their heads.
John Joseph Wilson’s a middle-aged stickup goon who for three years was known to pack heat when he snatched loot from postal workers to grocery clerks throughout Maryland.
Massachusetts native Ahmad Abousamra is accused of turning against his country and landed on the FBI’s notorious “Most Wanted Terrorist” list for becoming a loyal member of the ruthless jihadi group ISIS. He’s now alleged to be masterminding the savage group’s slick propaganda machine from Aleppo, Syria.
While Wilson was captured recently, both he and Abousamra were simultaneously wanted by the federal government and splashed on posters to prod the public to bring them to justice for a sum of $50,000.
You read that right: the postal robber and ISIS’s propaganda chief demand the same reward.
True, Abousamra is amongst craven company like airline hijackers Muhammed Ahmed Al-Munawar and Hasan Izz-Al-Din (each commands $5 million reward for tips leading to their capture).
Even Al Qaeda’s American poster boy Adam Gadahn’s purse for any Good Samaritan tipster could yield “up to $1 million.”
A former FBI agent told The Daily Beast that the seemingly meager sum isn’t intended to inspire anybody overseas to turn over the ISIS member to face justice.
Rather it’s a taste to compel a U.S. citizen who might know Abousamra’s whereabouts.
“That FBI money is designed to entice somebody in the United states to help find where he is overseas,” the former agent said. “They’re not investing money to pay somebody overseas; even if he’s a member of ISIS and a bad guy.”
Plus once you get beyond $50,000 mark, the former agent said, the Bureau has to seek out approvals from other agencies and by the Treasury.
When it comes to setting up a reward, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service considers “$50,000 commonplace.”
“Usually $25,000 if no weapon was brandished would be where we would start a reward off,” said the service’s spokeswoman Lori McCallister.
The $50,000 reward means a weapon was brandished to either the customers or the employees.
“It could be also be that we’ve seen a couple robberies in a certain vicinity that then also raises the level of the reward.”
Indeed, some of the rewards have topped hundreds of thousands when the crime involves a homicide.
But a survey of some of the crimes committed by post office bandits that warrant the $50,000 reward are run-of-the-mill robberies.
For instance, authorities are hoping the public can make something off of a sketch of a mustachioed perp from three years ago who in broad daylight robbed a letter carrier in front of an apartment building in Hollywood, California.
John Joseph Wilson, for his part, was sentenced this past October to 30 years hard time for drawing his shotgun or pistol on over a dozen occasions at all sorts of businesses—including thrice knocking off the same post office in Benson, Maryland.
“The second time he went to rob the post office he was seen running away and [Wilson] fired a round at that person,” Frank Schissler, of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, office, told The Daily Beast.
From July 2010 to October 2013 Wilson racked up a robbing spree that included four banks and a supermarket to the tune of $50,000 in illicit profits.
He pointed a pistol at a grocery checkout woman and swiped whatever cash he could into his pockets before booking it.
And during one bank robbery Wilson used his cell phone to demand “large bills” and “no dye pack” to make off with $940.
But it was the man’s penchant for post office scores—packed with packages and cash and stamps—that ultimately did him in.
On October 5, 2013, Wilson pointed a pistol at a postal clerk. She stormed off next door, where the business owner tried to chase Wislon off before the bandit squeezed off a round.
Five days later authorities were able to match a fingerprint at the post office to Wilson sending him to an early retirement.
Abdul Abousamra had bigger plans.
Reared in Mansfield, Massachusetts, Abousamra attended Catholic high schools and avoided riffraff most of his childhood.
For whatever reason, the doctor’s son became fanatical and turned to jihad.
He’s now fighting for ISIS in Aleppo, Syria, the FBI Wanted poster claims.
“Abousamra advocates violent extremism and boldly promotes violence against United States citizens and military personnel,” Vincent S. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Division said.
As early as 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Abousamra traveled to Pakistan to try and get trained in military fighting with mujahideen supporters and ultimately “fight and kill United States nationals,” according to court papers.
In reality he and another jihadist, Tarek Mehanna, slipped into Iraq at one point “facing down an AK-47” and tried unsuccessfully for two weeks in hopes of racking up American kills, the papers say.
“Ahmad Abousamra was under the view that it was more virtuous to fight against the Americans in Iraq … because they were, as he termed ‘haddir osli’ someone who is a disbeliever from his birth,” another friend Jason Pippin testified during a criminal trial.
But Al Qaeda rejected Abousamra. He and his friends were American fish in the desert.
“…we didn’t know how to get to a training camp,” a friend testified, who added that aimlessly crossing the desert to find fellow warriors was a fool’s errand.
Abousamra then returned stateside with a bruised ego.
“I feel like such a loser, loser, loser,” Abousamra told his co-conspirators after failing to joing the jihad fight.
But the young man stayed hellbent on martyrdom.
He and his buddies watched jihadi videos featuring US military getting blown up by IEDs to bloodletting in Chechnya as well as read and even translated radical texts; including a book called “Join The Caravan” which was written by Bin Laden’s teacher and mentor Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
They also frequented online chat rooms where fellow Islamic zealots teed off with venomous rants about their hate for infidels.
And they took pleasure in wishing former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell contracted cancer, and that President Bush and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld caught AIDS and “transfer it to their wives and daughters.”
In the early stages of hatching their plans to commit jihad they hoped to off then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and used the moniker “peanut butter” as a substitute for jihad.
“Ahmad just had a piece of paper saying Condoleeza Rice was coming to Boston. ‘Just imagine if somebody shot her!’” one pal testified at Tarek Mehanna’s trial back in 2011.
At first, Abousamra’s crew planned to blow up buildings in Boston unleash a massacre at a shopping mall using small arms and attacking first responders and emergency personnel.
But none of them managed to be able to acquire the weapons or the bomb materials to carry out either event.
In 2006, when the feds began interrogating Mehanna, the FBI caught up with Abousamra. But he somehow managed to slip away and fled to Syria where he’s remained and believed to be the brains behind the studio quality trailers and snuff films being produced and distributed with aplomb around the internet.
You’d think the FBI would demand a big reward for a guy like that.