RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of deceased San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in an immigration fraud case stemming from the investigation of the Dec. 2, 2015, attack in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded.
Syed Raheel Farook, 31, of Corona, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal.
As a result of Tuesday’s guilty plea, Syed Raheel Farook faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. Judge Bernal is scheduled to sentence the defendant Nov. 13.
Syed Raheel Farook; his wife, Tatiana Farook; and his sister-in-law, Mariyah Chernykh, were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in April 2016. All three were charged with conspiracy to knowingly make under oath a false statement with respect to a material fact in an application, affidavit, and other document required by the immigration laws and regulations of the United States, and to commit perjury.
The indictment alleges that, beginning in late 2014 and continuing through February 2016, the three defendants conspired with Enrique Marquez Jr. to obtain immigration benefits for Chernykh by arranging and carrying out a fraudulent marriage between Chernykh, a Russian citizen, and Marquez, a U.S. citizen. The conspirators allegedly made false statements in immigration documents submitted on Chernykh’s behalf.
In addition to the conspiracy count, Chernykh is charged in the indictment with two counts of making false statements under oath in immigration documents and one count of making false statements to federal agents about the scheme. A trial for Tatiana Farook and Chernykh is currently scheduled for March 28.
Marquez was charged in a separate federal indictment with participating in the marriage fraud scheme, as well as plotting with San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook in 2011 and 2012 to carry out attacks in the Inland Empire. Marquez is also charged with supplying two firearms that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfin Malik, later used in the San Bernardino attack and during the shootout with law enforcement that ended in the couple’s death. Marquez is scheduled to go on trial before Judge Bernal Sept. 26.
“Today’s guilty plea is the result of the thorough investigation into the brutal attack in San Bernardino that took the lives of 14 innocent Americans and tragically affected many more shooting victims and family members,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Law enforcement and prosecutors in my office continue to seek justice for the victims and the entire community of San Bernardino by uncovering and prosecuting all of the criminal activity related to the terrible events of December 2. As I have said many times, we are committed to leaving no stone unturned in this investigation.”
“The false statements Mr. Farook admittedly made allowed others to cut the line to attain citizenship ahead of legitimate applicants,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “This guilty plea should serve as a message for anyone contemplating similar activity that flouting the immigration laws of the United States has serious consequences.”
“Let there be no doubt, immigration benefit fraud is a serious crime,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “When people use false or misleading information in order to obtain an immigration benefit for themselves or others, it creates a security vulnerability that could be exploited by criminals and other individuals who pose a serious danger to our community. As this case makes clear, HSI will aggressively target those who conspire to corrupt the integrity of America’s legal immigration system, putting our nation’s security at risk in the process.”
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Riverside, which includes the FBI; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the San Bernardino Police Department; the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay H. Robinson, Melanie Sartoris, and Deirdre Z. Eliot of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section with substantial assistance from Trial Attorney C. Alexandria Bogle of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.