LOS ANGELES – Federal agents arrested three people, including the older brother of San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, on charges of marriage fraud conspiracy and lying to federal investigators on Thursday morning, according to a criminal complaint.
Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of Syed Rizwan Farook, Mariya Chernykh and Tatiana Farook were all arrested Thursday morning and charged in a five-count indictment filed in federal court that centers around a fraudulent marriage between Chernykh and Enrique Marquez, who has been charged with aiding in the deadly Dec. 2 attack.
Two people were arrested at Raheel Farook’s home after the FBI conducted a search warrant on Thursday morning, according to Sgt. Paul Mercado, a spokesman for the Corona Police Department. A second search warrant was also served at Chernykh’s home in Ontario, federal prosecutors said.
In the course of the investigation into the terrorist attack, federal investigators determined that Marquez received money to marry Chernykh, who only took part in the wedding in order to gain legal status in the U.S. FBI agents interrogated Chernykh as part of the probe into the terror attack, and prosecutors say she lied during those interviews, saying she lived with Marquez, when she actually resided in Ontario.
All three are expected to appear in federal court later Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
FBI agents have executed three search warrants at Raheel Farook’s home since Dec. 2, when Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded several more in a mass shooting at a conference room at the Inland Regional Center.
The husband and wife died hours later in a gun battle with police. Federal agents searched the older brother’s home, where several Farook family members live, in the days after the shooting.
They conducted a second search in February, after the investigation pivoted to a search for key evidence that might help the FBI track Farook and Malik’s movements after the Dec. 2 shooting. The hard drive of Farook’s laptop has eluded FBI agents and has become something of a holy grail in the investigation as the FBI tries to determine whether Farook and Malik had any help in planning or carrying out the attack.
Raheel Farook’s marriage to a Russian national also came under suspicion in the weeks after the December attack. The elder Farook and Enrique Marquez – a friend of Syed Rizwan Farook who has been charged with buying weapons used in the assault – were married to a pair of sisters from Western Russia: Tatiana and Mariya Chernykh.
Tatiana was married to Raheel Farook, while Mariya was wed to Marquez in 2014. Late last year, Marquez was charged with marriage fraud after federal prosecutors accused him of receiving money to marry Mariya Chernykh.
Records have shown Mariya Chernykh resided in Ontario and did not live with Marquez.
In the days after the shooting, friends and neighbors of the brothers said they were polar opposites. While his younger brother has been named as the architect of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 2001, the elder Farook was a Navy veteran who received medals for service in the “Global War on Terrorism.”
The older brother was the extrovert of the two, friends say, loud and sociable when compared to Rizwan Farook.
While there has been no indication the elder Farook brother had any knowledge of his brother’s plans, police were called to his Corona home days after the attack at the Inland Regional Center because of a domestic disturbance. At the time, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office said the agency was reviewing the case.
Calls to the district attorney’s office spokesman seeking additional comment Thursday were not immediately returned.
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