LOS ANGELES (CNS / FOX 11) - The older brother of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook was arrested in Corona Thursday, along with his wife and sister-in law, on federal conspiracy, marriage fraud and false statement charges arising from the continuing probe into the massacre at the Inland Regional Center.
From Zohreen Adamjee:
Thursday's arrests don't appear to be linked to the massacre.
But terrorism expert Brian Levin says this could be the FBI's way of getting the family to reveal more information.
"Now that they have federal charges over their heads, they have great leverage to get information from them in exchange for a plea deal if they do in fact have any information and we just don't know. There's nothing in these papers that indicate they do," said Levin, the director of the Center for the study of Hate and Extremism at CSUSB.
FOX 11 attempted to speak to Farook's father and mother, but neither wanted to speak to the media.
A neighbor who lives across the street says he spoke to the father earlier Thursday morning.
"I asked them how are they holding up and they said well you gotta go with the punches and role with it and he understands it and understands how important it is to cooperate," said neighbor Stacy Mozer.
Syed Raheel Farook, 31, of Corona; his wife, Tatiana Farook, 31, of Corona; and Mariya Chernykh, 26, of Ontario, were arrested during two raids carried out by federal authorities. Chernykh is Tatiana Farook's sister, authorities said.
Warrants were served at both the Corona residence of the elder Farook, a former decorated Navy veteran who lives with Tatiana Farook, their child and his parents at the townhouse in the 1700 block of Forum Way, and Chernykh's residence in Ontario.
A five-count indictment was returned yesterday by a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. All three defendants are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Riverside.
The indictment accuses the three of carrying out a marriage fraud conspiracy to obtain immigration benefits for Chernykh, who allegedly entered into a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez, a friend of Syed Rizwan Farook. Marquez was previously indicted by a federal grand jury for supplying Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, with the weapons used to carry out the Dec. 2 massacre at the Inland Regional Center.
All three were charged with knowingly making false statements under oath in order to secure immigration documents for Chernykh, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
Chernykh is also charged with fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents; perjury; and two counts of making false material statements to federal agents, charges which carry a combined maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison.
According to authorities, the Farooks engaged in the conspiracy by being witnesses and Marquez and Chernykh's wedding, taking staged family pictures of the couple, creating a joint checking account for Marquez and Chernykh, as well as a back-dated lease that implied they shared a marital residence with the Farooks.
Marquez and Chernykh, a Russian citizen, allegedly signed immigration documents, under penalty of perjury, falsely stating that they both lived at the same address. The indictment alleges that Marquez received money from Chernykh as part of the arrangement. Marquez continues to await trial on charges of conspiring with Syed Rizwan Farook in 2011 and 2012 to provide material support to terrorists.
Fourteen people were killed and 22 wounded in what the FBI described as an Islamist-motivated terrorist attack. The suspects were killed in a shootout with authorities.
"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 Decker said.
"As I have said previously, we owe the victims, and the entire community of San Bernardino, a thorough investigation that uncovers all criminal activity surrounding these events.
"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,'' Decker said. "The charges also reflect the importance we place on statements made to law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation.''
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