Central Valley Man Accused of Trying to Join ISIS

KEYES -- Federal officials say a man from Keyes was arrested for attempting to join ISIS.

Benard Augustine was arrested in Tunisia in 2016 and charged with terrorism-related charges after buying a one-way ticket and flying there from San Francisco. Augustine had apparently planned to enter Libya through Tunisia to join a terrorist group.

He was returned to American officials this week after being in Tunisian custody for two years.

According to court documents, investigators searched Augustine's computer which showed a song that praised ISIS, emails voicing support for the terror group and graphic videos showing the violence perpetuated by ISIS fighters. He had also searched for "how to safely join ISIS."

While he was back home the FBI questioned one of his family members. They told investigators they had no idea why he left because they have no friends or family who live in Tunisia.

FOX40 spoke to neighbors who know the Keyes man as quiet and who they say mostly kept to himself.

A former friend of Augustine's said she told the FBI everything she knew two years ago.  She said Augustine was "extroverted" and "carefree."

"When I met him he wanted to be a nurse, then he lost interest and wanted to be an anesthesiologist," she said. "Then he mentioned he wanted to travel to do welding school. He was indecisive about what he wanted to do."

Another woman, who asked FOX40 to protect her identity, said she always thought of him as quiet.

“They were just a really quiet family. I didn’t really suspect anything about them," the woman said. "He was nice. He didn’t seem dangerous to me at all.”

Neighbors were baffled but at least two people told FOX40 the police had been at his family’s house in recent months.

"Just a couple months ago but I didn’t see anything," said the unidentified woman. "I just saw the cop cars outside. It was none of my business so I didn’t really peek out to see what was going on."

Augustine is due to appear in federal court Tuesday in Brooklyn.

"He was a thinker and loved to read articles. But I don't know why he would even think of something like that," said the former friend. "I think he was looking for a purpose in life. Maybe someone brainwashed him online, I honestly don't know why."