The FBI has arrested 3 people with connections to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook. The arrests were made Thursday after a search of two different locations in southern California. Those arrested include Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of the San Bernardino terrorist, plus his wife Tatiana and the wife’s sister Mariya Chernykh.
The reasons for the arrests was not terrorist activity but a sham marriage set up between Chernykh and a man named Enrique Marquez who was a friend and neighbor of the San Bernardino terrorist. Marquez is currently awaiting trial for conspiring with Farook to provide material support to terrorists. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office details the scheme:
While investigating the terrorist attack, federal agents obtained official records showing that Marquez, a former neighbor of [San Bernardino terrorist] Syed Rizwan Farook’s, is married to Chernykh. The investigation determined that Marquez agreed to marry Chernykh so she could obtain immigration benefits that were not available to her because she is a Russian citizen and did not have legal status in the United States. The indictment alleges that Marquez received money from Chernykh to enter into the sham marriage.
In furtherance of this conspiracy, both Marquez and Chernykh signed immigration documents, under penalty of perjury, that included information that they lived at the same address, when they did not.
Syed Raheel Farook [brother of the San Bernardino terrorist] and Tatiana Farook participated in the conspiracy by, among other things, 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.
The marriage was a complete sham. Chernykh was actually paying Marquez $200 a month to be her “husband” on paper but the two did not live together. The LA Times reports the pair became worried the scam would be uncovered just before the terror attack took place:
When the couple learned they were set to be interviewed by immigration officials in late 2015, panic set in, according to the indictment. Syed Raheel Farook allegedly created a fraudulent lease agreement that suggested Marquez and Chernykh had been living together since November 2014. The agreement said the couple lived with him and his wife at their Forum Way home in Corona, prosecutors allege. But public records show Chernykh actually resided in Ontario.
In a November 2015 e-mail exchange, Marquez and Chernykh “discussed their mutual anxiety for their upcoming immigration interview due to the lack of contact with each other,” according to the indictment.
Days later, Marquez posted on social media that he “was involved in terrorist plots and he might go to prison for fraud,” the indictment said.
On Dec. 1, the day before the terror attack, the two sisters traveled to a retail jewelry store in Riverside and purchased a $50 wedding ring for Marquez, according to the indictment.
After the attack, when the FBI interviewed family members, Tatiana Farook tried to maintain the lie that the couple had been living together. All three now face up to five years in prison for their role in the fraudulent marriage.
United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said regarding the arrests, “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.”