Three people with close family ties to the couple responsible for the San Bernardino terror attack have been arrested in an alleged marriage-fraud scheme involving a pair of Russian sisters.
The accused include Syed Raheel Farook, whose brother and sister-in-law Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, died in a shootout with police after killing 14 people and wounding 22 others on December 2.
Also arrested were Syed Raheel Farook’s wife, Tatiana, and her sister, Mariya Chernykh.
Prosecutors say Mariya’s marriage to Enrique Marquez Jr., the only person charged in the shootings, was a sham designed to enable her to obtain legal status in the US after overstaying a visitor visa in 2009.
Marquez confessed to the scheme when authorities questioned him about the shootings, and he acknowledged getting $US200 a month to marry Chernykh, according to his criminal complaint.
The three people all pleaded not guilty at a court hearing Thursday.
A judge ordered that Chernykh, who prosecutors allege was most culpable for the sham marriage, be subject to electronic monitoring. Chernykh said her boyfriend, who is the father of her child, will post her $US50,000 bond.
The mother of the Farook brothers posted the $US25,000 bond for her oldest son and his wife. He was released, and she was expected to be released within an hour.
“This is about a misrepresentation, an act of marriage,” Raheel Farook’s attorney, Ronald Cordova, told a federal court judge in arguing for his client to be allowed to post bond.
“This is not about terrorism,” he said.
If convicted of conspiracy to make false statements on federal immigration documents, the Farooks and Chernykh face up to five years in prison. Chernykh also is charged with fraud and other charges which could mean up to 25 years in prison.
According to an indictment unsealed on Thursday, Syed Raheel and Tatiana Farook participated in the sham by acting as witnesses to the union of her sister and Marquez, and by creating a joint checking account along with a backdated lease to make it appear as if all four of them lived together.
All the while, Marquez was living with his mother next door to the house where the Farook brothers grew up, and Chernykh was living in a different city with her boyfriend, also the father of her child, according to the criminal complaint against Marquez.
Marquez is charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists by buying the assault rifles used in the massacre and making false statements about when he bought the weapons.
Syed Raheel Farook, the shooter’s older brother, earned two medals for fighting global terrorism in the Navy from 2003 to 2007. His home in southern California was searched by the FBI in February.
Syed Rizwan Farook was a county health inspector who targeted his co-workers at an annual training session in what became the deadliest terror strike on US soil since September 11, 2001.