Saturday 3 December 2016

San Bernardino gunman's relatives arrested in marriage fraud probe

Published 28/04/2016 | 18:36

The three people were arrested at two locations in southern California
The three people were arrested at two locations in southern California

The brother and sister-in-law of one of the San Bernardino terrorists have been arrested along with a second woman in what prosecutors claim was a marriage scheme to fraudulently allow one of them to remain in the United States.

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Prosecutors said they uncovered the sham marriage during the investigation into the December 2 shootings that killed 14 people.

The gunmen - Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik - died in a gun battle with police.

Authorities in southern California arrested Farook's brother and sister-in-law, and the wife of Enrique Marquez Jr, Farook's friend, in the marriage fraud case.

The two women are sisters and Russian immigrants, and came to the US on visas for work or student exchanges.

The sham marriage was between Marquez and Mariya Chernykh, prosecutors said. They wed so she could obtain immigration benefits unavailable to her as a Russian citizen without legal status in the US, according to authorities.

The FBI has said Marquez acknowledged getting 200 US dollars (£140) a month to marry Chernykh, and bank statements back that up, according to the indictment charging the trio.

The trio are not accused of involvement in the attack, though Marquez has been charged with conspiring with Farook to provide material support to terrorists.

Farook's brother Syed Raheel Farook and his wife Tatiana participated in the sham marriage by acting as witnesses to the union, and by creating a joint bank account and a back-dated lease to make it look like the pair shared a marital home with the Farooks, prosecutors said.

Tatiana Farook accompanied Chernykh to buy a 50 US dollars (£34) wedding ring, and Marquez and Chernyk posed for staged photographs to make the marriage appear real, prosecutors said.

Raheel Farook served in the Navy from 2003 to 2007 and earned two medals for fighting global terrorism.

In February, FBI agents conducted an hours-long search of his home in the southern California city of Corona, carting out arm-loads of thick envelopes, a computer tower and an unidentifiable object so heavy it took two men to carry.

The search warrant was sealed, and it was not immediately clear if it was connected to Thursday's arrests.

The San Bernardino shooting was the deadliest terror strike on US soil since 9/11.

The couple opened fire at an annual training event for Farook's San Bernardino County co-workers. The 14 people killed and 22 injured were mainly his colleagues.

The FBI said the Muslim couple were radicalised before they met online and communicated privately about jihad and martyrdom before they married.

Marquez, the only person charged in connection with the attack, is accused of providing the assault rifles used in the massacre, making false statements about when he bought the weapons, and conspiring with Syed Rizwan Farook on a pair of previously planned attacks that were never carried out.

Farook's family has said it had no inkling about the plot.

Press Association

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