Levar Haley Washington was finally free on parole after years in prison for robbery - but unbeknownst to authorities, the Muslim convert was already plotting more serious crimes.
Washington was determined to help his religious mentor and fellow convict Kevin James plan jihad-style attacks on military sites, synagogues and other targets, prosecutors said. James, who was still in prison, instructed Washington to recruit five men, obtain two pistols with silencers and make sure one of the men was trained in bomb-making.
"Be careful [brother], there are agents everywhere looking for [Al Qaida] recruiters or any other threat to national security," James wrote to Washington in 2005.
"Your squad will be engaged on all levels."
Police uncovered the plot later that year when they connected it to a string of petrol station robberies in the Los Angeles area. On Friday, James and Washington pleaded guilty to conspiring to levy war against the United States and affirmed that the elements of the plot, as presented by prosecutors, were true.
Washington also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to further that conspiracy.
James, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 31. Washington, 28, faces up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years to life for a firearms offence when he is sentenced on April 28.
"Homegrown terrorism remains a grave concern to the security of our country, and this cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11," Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing told reporters at a news conference. ( Gulf )