A confidant of one of the husband-and-wife terrorists who carried out the 2015 massacre in San Bernardino pleaded guilty Thursday, Feb. 16, to charges that he conspired to commit acts of terror in Riverside.
Enrique Marquez Jr., 25, admitted one count each of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements in the acquisition of firearms. In exchange for his admissions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop related charges of marriage fraud, immigration visa fraud and lying on a federal document.
The defendant entered into the plea agreement with the federal government Tuesday, and this morning’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal was to formally acknowledge the stipulations.
Bernal spent more than 10 minutes questioning Marquez, who stood before him in handcuffs and a white jumper, noticeably overweight.
The judge inquired as to Marquez’s mental state and learned that the defendant was receiving psychiatric therapy and taking lithium. When Bernal asked about the specific disorder for which Marquez was being treated, the defendant replied, “I’m not sure.”
Members of his family were on hand, along with a number of law enforcement officials and a large media contingent, requiring a second courtroom to be used for overflow and observation via large-screen TV monitors.
Bernal scheduled a sentencing hearing for the afternoon of Aug. 21 at the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside. Marquez is being held without bail at the federal detention center in San Bernardino.
“This defendant collaborated with and purchased weapons for a man who carried out the devastating Dec. 2, 2015, terrorist attack that took the lives of 14 innocent people, wounded nearly two dozen and impacted our entire nation,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said Tuesday. “While his earlier plans to attack a school and a freeway were not executed, the planning clearly laid the foundation for the 2015 attack on the Inland Regional Center.”
According to prosecutors, Marquez was a close associate of 28-year-old Sayeed Rizwan Farook, who teamed with his wife, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, to carry out the rampage at the IRC during an employee Christmas party. Both died a few hours later in a gunbattle with police.
Marquez stated on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form that he was the actual buyer of the two high-capacity semi-automatic rifles with which Farook and Malik armed themselves.
“Marquez purchased two of the weapons used in the terror attack … a horrific act which led to great suffering and a lifetime of pain for the survivors and for the loved ones of those murdered,” said Deirdre Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. “Marquez provided these weapons to his associate, Farook, with whom he conspired to plot chilling terror attacks.”
The defendant moved to Riverside and met Farook, his next-door neighbor, in 2005. Under the future jihadi terrorist’s sway, Marquez converted to Islam, after which he adopted a radical philosophy, and by late 2011, the pair were preparing to perpetrate terrorist attacks, prosecutors say.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Marquez admitted making plans with Farook to commit mass murder at the library or cafeteria of Riverside City College. The two men also schemed to go on a killing spree on the eastbound Riverside (91) Freeway during afternoon rush-hour, identifying a particular section of roadway that had no exits, according to the FBI.
The defendant backed out of the terrorist plots in November 2012 after the arrests of four Inland Empire men who were gearing up to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. All four were convicted and sentenced to between 10 and 25
years in prison.
Marquez also engaged in a sham marriage with a Russian immigrant, who is the sister-in-law of 31-year-old Syed Farook, the terrorist’s elder sibling.
Mariya Chernykh, 26, and Marquez went all-out to make their fake nuptials appear legitimate, taking staged family photos, creating a joint checking account and a back-dated lease that implied they shared a marital residence, enabling her to remain in the country and collect benefits, according to court papers.
Marquez and Chernykh signed immigration documents, under penalty of perjury, falsely stating that they both lived at the same Riverside address, prosecutors said. However, Chernykh eventually moved in with another man in Ontario, while Marquez received money from her as part of the arrangement.
Last month, Chernykh admitted charges of conspiracy, perjury and making false statements to federal officials. She’s slated to be sentenced Nov. 20.
In a separate plea agreement, Syed Farook admitted a conspiracy charge. He’s slated to be sentenced Nov. 13 – the same day as his wife, 32-year-old Tatiana Farook, Chernykh’s sister, who last week admitted a conspiracy count.
All three are free on bond. Farook and his wife are each facing five years behind bars; Chernykh is facing up to 20 years.