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Friend of San Bernardino shooters had ties to ‘jihadists’ planning to fight with Al Qaeda, prosecutors say

Enrique Marquez Jr.
In this courtroom sketch, Enrique Marquez Jr. appears in federal court in Riverside on Dec. 21.
(Bill Robles / Associated Press)

Enrique Marquez Jr., who is awaiting trial on charges that he helped the San Bernardino shooters, was tied to a “group of jihadists” planning to move from California to Afghanistan to fight with Al Qaeda, federal prosecutors revealed in new court documents.

Marquez is accused of providing the weapons used in the Dec. 2 attack that killed 14 people, the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

Until this week, officials had not suggested that Marquez had known ties to other extremists.

In the court documents, prosecutors say Marquez had connections to “California jihadists” who were arrested in 2012 when they attempted to go to Afghanistan to fight with Al Qaeda.

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The documents did not provide details about what ties Marquez had or name the “California jihadists.” That year however, four  men, Ralph Deleon, Sohiel Omar Kabir, Miguel Santana and Arafin Gojali, were arrested on suspicion of plotting to travel overseas to Afghanistan, join Al Qaeda and kill Americans.

Prosecutors have alleged that Marquez planned earlier attacks prior to Dec. 2 with one of the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook. Those efforts were abandoned.

Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out the Dec. 2 attack. Prosecutors have said Marquez did not play a role in carrying out that attack but alleged he did provide the shooters with guns.

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But in a Tuesday court filing connected to Farook’s case, prosecutors wrote that Marquez had “ties to a group of jihadists.”

Authorities provided no other details of the ties and would not comment, and Marquez’s attorney declined to comment Wednesday.

The FBI contradicted prosecutors’ description of Marquez’s ties to the jihadists in a statement Wednesday that said:

“The FBI thoroughly investigated the alleged connections between Enrique Marquez and the four individuals arrested for the 2012 terror plot and concluded there were no direct ties to any of the four.”

The detail about Marquez was included in a court filing seeking to stop two life insurance payments worth $275,000 from being paid out to Farook’s family.

After the attacks, Marquez was indicted on charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, lying about rifle purchases, marriage fraud and lying on a visa application. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected to go to trial next year.

Federal prosecutors said they determined that Marquez was paid $200 a month for marrying Mariya Chernykh, who took part in the wedding only to gain legal status in the U.S. FBI agents interrogated Chernykh as part of the inquiry into the terror attack, and prosecutors say she lied during those interviews by pretending that she lived with Marquez when she actually resided in Ontario.

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Chernykh is the sister of Tatiana Farook, the wife of Syed Raheel Farook, the older brother of Syed Rizwan Farook.

A 12-page indictment accuses Chernykh and Marquez of staging their entire relationship. Chernykh made three separate $200 deposits in a bank account she shared with Marquez in late 2015, according to the indictment.

The two claimed they were married at a religious institution in Corona in November 2014, but Chernykh struggled from the start to play her part in the happily-ever-after charade, according to the indictment.

On Christmas Day 2014, Tatiana Farook told Chernykh to stop posting photos of herself with another man, the father of her child, on social media, prosecutors say.

When the couple learned they were going to be interviewed by immigration officials in late 2015, panic set in, according to the indictment. Syed Raheel Farook created a fraudulent lease agreement that suggested Marquez and Chernykh had been living together since November 2014, prosecutors allege. The document falsely claimed the couple lived with Farook and his wife at their home in Corona, prosecutors say.

In a November 2015 email exchange, Marquez and Chernykh discussed their mutual anxiety over their upcoming immigration interview because they had not been in contact with each other, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors say Tatiana Farook persisted with the lie 24 hours after the San Bernardino attack. When interviewed by the FBI on Dec. 3, she insisted that Marquez and Chernykh had been living together at her Corona home, according to the indictment.

Syed Raheel Farook married Tatiana Farook in 2011, with Marquez and the younger Farook serving as witnesses. Her younger sister, Chernykh, left Russia on a short-term visa in 2009. She dated a Los Angeles resident named Oscar Romero for several years, and the two had a child. In an interview with The Times last year, Romero insisted the couple split up when she married Marquez.

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Federal prosecutors say Marquez admitted during interviews with FBI agents after the Dec. 2 attack that his marriage was a sham and that he provided details of his friendship with Syed Rizwan Farook.

Staff writers James Queally, Richard Winton and Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.

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For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.


UPDATES:

UPDATES:

5:30 p.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from FBI officials. 

3:47 p.m. Updated with new material.


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