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Suspected ISIS supporter arrested in Sterling, Va. FBI raid makes first court appearance

Sean Andrew Duncan stands accused of destroying and hiding items like a thumb drive and memory chip to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of him regarding his possible support of ISIS. (Courtroom art by William Hennessy)

A Northern Virginia man accused of being an ISIS supporter made his first appearance in court Tuesday.

Sean Andrew Duncan, 21, of Sterling, Virginia, had an obstruction of justice charge for impeding a federal investigation formally read to him in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria.

Duncan stands accused of destroying and hiding items like a thumb drive and memory chip to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of him regarding his possible support of ISIS. He was arrested Friday night during an FBI raid of his Sterling condominium.

According to ABC7's Richard Reeve, Duncan had what appeared to be a “Blue Lives Matter“ flag, a symbol of support for police officers, on the back of his T-shirt during his court appearance.

According to the FBI, it had a warrant to search Duncan's home. In February 2016, a family member told the FBI that Duncan had converted to Islam, was possibly radicalized and approved of Westerners being beheaded. The court documents also say that an unnamed co-conspirator said in July that Duncan was interested in joining ISIS, attacking the United States and gave her instructions on making homemade bombs. Overall, the FBI had been investigating Duncan for nearly a year.

The FBI says it believes Duncan tried to escape through the back door of his condo and keep the thumb drive and memory chip away from the FBI as part of their investigation of him. Prosecutors are not saying if they were able to recover any of the information from the damaged devices.

Duncan, who is originally from Pittsburgh, was allegedly trying to provide material support for terrorists.

Federal agents say they didn’t originally go to Duncan’s condo to arrest him, but rather just to collect evidence.

The FBI and other law enforcement spent hours raiding his condo in the Chatham Green Condominiums in the 46900 block of Courtyard Square in Sterling. Agents were seen taking boxes and other items from the home and left around 7:30 p.m. after neighbors told ABC7 they arrived in the afternoon.

Duncan’s wife, who has not been named, doesn’t face any charges and is not in custody.

Neighbors said that at least one man and one woman who they say dressed "Middle Eastern" moved into the home a few months ago. Neighbors said the man would wear a long black robe and had a long beard, while the woman wore a burqa.

Duncan will next have a detention hearing next Monday at 2 p.m., when prosecutors present their argument for why the charges should be held against him. Prosecutors call the investigation “ISIS-related terrorism.”

Duncan will be held in jail until the hearing.

Duncan faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the federal obstruction charge.

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Reeve reported from the courthouse.

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