Federal authorities say they have discovered connections between a friend of one of the San Bernardino attackers – a former neighbor charged with conspiring to carry out other attacks with him – and a group of men arrested years earlier in California as part of a different plot.
This comes after the FBI had said in the weeks after the Dec. 2 rampage in San Bernardino, California, that they found no evidence of any ties between the husband-and-wife attackers and a group of men arrested in 2012 and charged with plotting to travel to Afghanistan to kill U.S. service members.
Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire inside a company holiday party in December, killing 14 people, before dying hours later in a shootout with police. Authorities later said Malik pledged allegiance to the head of the Islamic State in a posting on Facebook after the attack.
Investigators have since sought to determine whether the couple had any other accomplices or connections to other groups, an issue that FBI Director James B. Comey highlighted in arguing for why the bureau needed to access Farook’s locked iPhone. Law enforcement officials have said the iPhone, which was eventually unlocked, has not revealed any connections to foreign terrorists. Comey has also said authorities believe the attackers were inspired by foreign terrorist groups.
Weeks after the attack, authorities arrested Enrique Marquez Jr., a former neighbor of Farook’s, and charged him with plotting to carry out other attacks in 2011 and 2012.
Farook and Marquez had put together detailed plans for the attacks, according to the FBI. In one plot, they discussed attacking the heavily trafficked Route 91 by throwing pipe bombs into the road to stop traffic and then shooting at trapped motorists and first responders. In another, the FBI alleges that they talked about going to Riverside City College – a community college both had attended – and hurling pipe bombs into the cafeteria.
Federal authorities say Marquez bought the guns later used in the San Bernardino attack during this plotting and purchased explosive material later used to build the pipe bomb found at the scene of the December rampage. Prosecutors have said there is no evidence Marquez had any knowledge of the San Bernardino attack before it happened.
The attacks plotted by Farook and Marquez were never carried out, and according to the criminal complaint filed against Marquez, he told authorities that “he distanced himself from Farook and ceased plotting with him after 2012 for a variety of reasons, including the arrest of Ralph Deleon and others on material support charges in November 2012.” All four men later pleaded guilty.
Around the time of Marquez’s arrest in December, Comey said investigators had not found any evidence suggesting that Farook had any connections to these men. But in a court filing Tuesday, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said that during the window when he plotted with Farook, “Marquez had ties to a group of jihadists . . . who were arrested in 2012.”
The filing does not elaborate on these ties or when federal authorities discovered them. An FBI official said Wednesday that investigators believed Marquez and these men did not have direct connections.
“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 official said in a statement.
An attorney for Marquez did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
This information was included in a court document filed Tuesday by federal prosecutors who say they want to seize payments on life insurance policies Farook took out years earlier, arguing that the money should be forfeited because it stemmed from terrorism.
The policies, worth a total of $275,000, designated his mother as the primary beneficiary in case he died, the civil forfeiture filing states. Prosecutors say Farook’s death in the shootout with police triggered payments from these policies.
In the new filing, prosecutors say that Farook set up the life insurance policies after he had already begun plotting attacks.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California says that in 2012, Farook got a life insurance policy with a $25,000 death benefit through his job working for San Bernardino County. Prosecutors say he got also a supplemental policy worth $250,000 in 2013.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Mark Berman, Adam Goldman