The government is throwing the book at the man who bought the rifles for the San Bernardino terrorists.
Enrique Marquez, 24, has been charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. In a press release, the Justice Department explains that the basis for this serious felony accusation is “Marquez’s role in terrorist plotting with [Syed] Farook in 2011 and 2012.” The plotters allegedly contemplated attacks in the Inland Empire in California, but did not carry them out.
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded several others in the jihadist attack at the Inland Regional Center (IRC) in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015.
Marquez claims to have distanced himself from Farook in 2012. The government does not allege that Marquez was aware of Farook and Malik’s plan to carry out the San Bernardino attack. U.S. attorney Eileen M. Decker explains, “While there currently is no evidence that Mr. Marquez participated in the Dec. 2, 2015 attack or had advance knowledge of it, his prior purchase of the firearms and ongoing failure to warn authorities about Farook’s intent to commit mass murder had fatal consequences.”
Marquez purchased the rifles in late 2011 and in 2012. Moreover, the Justice Department alleges that, in 2011, Marquez purchased an explosive – smokeless powder – that was ultimately used to make a pipe bomb found at the IRC after the attack two weeks ago.
Marquez is also charged with a firearms offense for fraudulently acting as a straw purchaser of the two guns – a Smith and Wesson M&P-15 Sport rifle purchased on November 14, 2011, and a DPMS model A-15 rifle purchased on February 22, 2012. Farook is said to have been the real purchaser of the rifles.
Finally, Marquez is charged with immigration fraud. It is alleged that he entered into a sham marriage with a member of Farook’s family.
The government contends that Farook persuaded Marquez to convert to Islam in 2007, two years after they met in Riverside. From there, Farook recruited Marquez into jihadism. The press release recounts:
Farook later introduced Marquez to radical Islamic ideology, which included expressing disdain towards Muslims in the U.S. military who killed other Muslims, as well as discussing the extremist views of the now-deceased imam and Islamic lecturer Anwar al-Aulaqi.
I pause to note that Aulaqi (also commonly spelled “Awlaki”) was not a mere imam and lecturer. He was an al-Qaeda recruiter and strategist ultimately killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. The press release continues:
Over the next few years, Farook provided Marquez with radical Islamic materials, and by 2011, Marquez spent most of his time at Farook’s residence listening to lectures and watching videos involving radical Islamic content. Those materials included Inspire Magazine, the official publication of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and videos produced by Al-Shabaab. In August 2011, Farook informed Marquez of his interest in joining AQAP in Yemen.
The 2011-2012 plotting by Farook and Marquez is said to have been extensive and aimed at maximizing casualties. They contemplated a pipe bomb attack at the library or cafeteria at Riverside Community College, where both men had been students. The plan included positioning themselves so they could shoot people fleeing in panic away from the bomb explosion.
Farook and Marquez also allegedly plotted a rush hour attack on the eastbound lanes of busy California Route 91. The plan was to deploy pipe bombs in a stretch of highway remote from any exits. The bombs would stop traffic, enabling the jihadists to shoot stranded motorists as well as any police who tried to come to the rescue.
It was in connection with these plots that Marquez purchased the firearms and smokeless powder for pipe bombs. These items were eventually used in the San Bernardino mass-murder.
Marquez claims to have distanced himself from Farook in 2012, apparently spooked by arrests in a separate terrorism case. The rifles he purchased for Farook were among the four firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition found after Farook and Malik were killed in a shootout with police following the massacre.
The charges on which Marquez has been arrested are outlined in a 36-page criminal complaint filed today in federal court in Riverside, California. According to the complaint, Marquez has made statements to investigating agents admitting much of the conduct with which he is charged.
The complaint should be followed by an indictment in the coming days (or weeks, if Marquez engages in plea negotiations). The indictment could add new charges. If convicted on the three charges in the complaint, Marquez would face up to 35 years’ imprisonment – 15 on the material support to terrorism conspiracy charge, 10 each on the firearms and marriage fraud charges.