Homeland Security

Relatives of San Bernardino Terrorist Charged with Marriage Fraud

Flowers and American flags honor the victims of the attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 29. 2015. (AP Photo/ Nick Ut)

Three people related to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook were arrested this morning on charges of marriage fraud related to the friend accused of supplying a pair of rifles used in the December attack on a county holiday party.

Enrique Marquez, who used to live next door to Farook, is expected to go on trial this summer to face charges that he plotted 2011 and 2012 attacks with his friend. Marquez, who married Russian immigrant Mariya Chernykh, also faces charges of marriage fraud and making false statements about the weapons he purchased.

In a five-count indictment returned Wednesday, Chernykh, her sister Tatiana, and Farook’s brother Syed Raheel, who is married to Tatiana, were accused of conspiring to commit marriage fraud to obtain immigration benefits. All three were scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon.

Chernykh, 26, lives in Ontario, Calif. Tatiana and Syed Raheel Farook, both 31, live in Corona, Calif.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Marquez and Chernykh signed documents claiming they lived together but they did not. Syed Raheel, a Navy veteran, and Tatiana Farook are accused of taking part in the conspiracy by “witnessing Marquez and Chernykh’s wedding, taking staged family pictures of Marquez and Chernykh, establishing a joint checking account for Marquez and Chernykh, and creating a back-dated lease for Marquez and Chernykh to create the illusion that they shared a marital residence with Syed Raheel Farook and Tatiana Farook.”

Chernykh, who reportedly paid Marquez to craft the sham marriage back in November 2014, allegedly also made statements to the FBI about the union during their investigation of the terrorist attacks.

The trio faces a maximum five years in federal prison on the marriage fraud charges. Chernykh is also charged with fraud and misuse of visas, perjury and two counts of making material false statements to federal agents, which combined carry a maximum 25 years behind bars.

“This is the latest step in the comprehensive investigation into the horrific attacks in San Bernardino last year that took the lives of 14 innocent Americans and deeply affected so many more,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “…Today’s arrests open a new phase in the process of bringing to justice all individuals who allegedly committed crimes that were uncovered during our exhaustive investigation.”

“The charges also reflect the importance we place on statements made to law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation,” Decker added. “Those who lie to or conceal material information from law enforcement officers investigating terrorist acts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles, said the San Bernardino attacks “showed yet again how our nation’s legal immigration system can be subverted and exploited by those intent on doing this country harm.”

Syed Rizwan Farook brought his Pakistani accomplice, Tashfeen Malik, to the U.S. on a fiancee visa from Saudi Arabia. The two married after her arrival and they had a baby six months before the terrorist attack.