Two Inland Empire men were sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison for a terrorist plot to travel overseas to Afghanistan, join Al Qaeda and kill Americans, prosecutors said.
Ralph Deleon, 26, a citizen of the Philippines who lived in Ontario, and Sohiel Omar Kabir, 37, an Afghanistan-born American citizen, were convicted in September after a nearly seven-week trial.
A jury found the men guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel as well as government personnel.
Deleon was also convicted of conspiring to murder, maim or kidnap overseas, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
“This case demonstrates the need for vigilance and swift action to counter the false allure of violent extremism,” U.S. Atty. Stephanie Yonekura said. “When confronted with young Americans who succumbed to the empty promises of violent extremism and sought to assist a terrorist group in killing American soldiers abroad, law enforcement acted swiftly to eliminate the threat.”
Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali previously pleaded guilty in connection with 2012 case. They are scheduled to be sentenced March 16.
Prosecutors alleged that Kabir arrived in Afghanistan in July 2012 and persuaded Deleon and the others to join him with claims that he had contacts with terrorist organizations. Kabir told the men that when they arrived, they would join the Taliban, which is referred to as “the students,” and later Al Qaeda, which he called “the professors.”
Deleon, Gojali and Santana trained for the mission by firing AK-47s at gun ranges and participating paintball activities in Southern California.
They planned to join Kabir overseas, but first devised a plan to avoid detection.
The men planned to cross into Mexico by land and fly into the Middle East. Deleon purchased airline tickets for the group.
But as they left an apartment in Chino for Mexico in November 2012, FBI agents stopped their vehicle and arrested them.
Kabir was taken into custody by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.
Kabir's attorneys alleged he moved to Germany to rebuild his life. But when his move wasn't successful, he moved to Afghanistan to stay with family, his attorneys said in U.S. District Court documents.
"When the other defendants told him they were about to leave the country to meet him, he told them not to come because he was panic-stricken at the idea, that given his idiotic boasting of nonexistent 'connections' and 'missions,' the others might actually join him expecting his help in a plot to kill people," his attorneys said in court documents.
They added that Kabir "never agreed to any such thing."
In handwritten letter to the court, Deleon said his actions were senseless.
"I am ready to face the consequences for my actions, which were senseless," he wrote. "I have no excuse for my actions and believed I was following the correct version of Islam, which is extreme and radical."
For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA