Should a terrorist’s family collect insurance money after he killed 14 people in the San Bernardino attack?
The federal government is suing to stop the family of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook from collecting more than $250,000 in life insurance payments from his death.
In a complaint seeking the seizure of the money Tuesday, the government alleges that the proceeds from Farook’s two policies are derived from a terrorist act.
“Terrorists must not be permitted to provide for their designated beneficiaries through their crimes,” said U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker in a statement. “My office intends to explore every legal option available to us to ensure these funds are made available to the victims of this horrific crime. We will continue to use every tool available to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks.”
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire on San Bernardino County workers at a holiday party Dec. 2, killing 14 and injuring 22 others.
Authorities say that Farook and a friend, Enrique Marquez Jr., had been planning a terrorist attack since 2011. Marquez was indicted in December on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, lying about the rifle purchases, marriage fraud and lying on a visa application. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial next year.
Amid the planning, prosecutors allege, Farook in 2012 obtained a $25,000 life insurance policy after he began working with the county, then a second one for $250,000 in 2013. For both policies, Farook listed his mother, Rafia Farook, as the beneficiary.
Growing up, Rafia Farook often had to turn to her children to intervene when her marriage turned violent, court records show.
In 2006 divorce filings, she said her husband of 24 years was physically and verbally abusive. She referred to him as a negligent alcoholic and said his hostility had forced her and the children to move out.
Later, in multiple requests for domestic-violence protection, the mother detailed the maltreatment she said she encountered and that her children witnessed: Her husband — also named Syed — dropped a TV on her while he was intoxicated. Another time, he pushed her toward a car. After a drunken slumber, he shouted expletives and threw dishes in the kitchen.
“Inside the house he tried to hit me. My daughter came in between to save me,” she said about one incident.
She also said her husband was suicidal and described a February 2008 incident when he threatened to kill himself. She called her husband’s brother in Chicago, who notified local police. They alerted Riverside authorities, who arrived at the home. Her husband was placed in a county hospital for a 72-hour observation period, she said.
In April 2008, Rafia Farook halted divorce proceedings. But one month later, she filed a petition for legal separation, citing irreconcilable differences. Her husband, she said in court papers, had not held a steady job for “a long time.” They divorced earlier this year.
Last week, the San Bernardino Coroner’s offices released details about the shooting rampage.
Each victim died from multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said, but the locations of their bodies varied. The shooting occurred at a conference center in San Bernardino. Two victims died across the street at a golf course, where a makeshift triage center had been hastily set up. Three died just outside the conference room. The rest of the victims were scattered across the 3,400-square-foot conference hall, including several by the tree, according to the reports.
Times staff writers Sarah Parvini, Matt Hamilton and Corina Knoll contributed to this report.
For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.
6:25 p.m. This article was updated with background. 4:27 p.m.: This article was updated with information about Farook’s family.
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