The sister-in-law of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook has pleaded guilty to committing federal immigration fraud in a case that came to light in the months following the Dec. 2, 2015, terrorist attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others.
The Russian-born Tatiana Farook, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal. Farook, who married Rizwan’s older brother, Syed Raheel Farook, now faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for her crime. Her husband previously pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud on Jan. 10.
“The risk that would-be terrorists and their associates may attempt to exploit America’s legal immigration system as a means to harm Americans remains very real, and we must continue to be ever vigilant.”
“Specifically, three members of the shooters’ family now face federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker, according to the Los Angeles Times. “These convictions are a testament to law enforcement’s ongoing commitment to ensure that everyone related to the terrorist attack are brought to justice.”
While the San Bernardino shooting was the deadliest terror attack the United States had witnessed on its shores since the 9/11 attacks until the Orlando shooting took place June 12, 2016, Farook’s Thursday plea garnered very little media attention.
Mainstream media outlets seemed far more concerned with criticizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ramped up efforts to arrest criminal illegal immigrants last week in an enforcement surge than paying heed to the immigration crimes surrounding the San Bernardino shooters’ close relatives.
Farook’s crime came to light during the ensuing San Bernardino investigation. Her immigration fraud charge involved plotting for her sister, Mariya Chernykh, to enter into a “sham marriage” with Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend of Rizwan’s who was charged with conspiracy related to terrorism, by issuing false statements regarding the acquisition of firearms and committing immigration fraud. Marquez was monetarily compensated for his role in the scam.
Chernykh, whose J-1 visa expired in Oct. 2009, never left the country. Instead, she plotted with her sister to create the sham marriage with Marquez, who was related to Rizwan by marriage, in order to obtain legal status in the U.S.
As immigration officials prepared to interview the couple, Raheel covered for them by fabricating a lease falsely claiming that Chernykh and Marquez were living with himself and Farook.
Chernykh and Marquez were arrested in April 2016, and Chernykh ultimately pleaded guilty to committing perjury, conspiracy, and issuing false statements to the FBI on Jan. 26.
“The third and final guilty plea to the charges in this indictment alleging conspiracy to violate U.S. immigration laws — crimes that came to light following the 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino — is a welcome step in this ongoing case,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, according to ICE’s statement.
“As Tatiana Farook and her co-defendants await sentencing, members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue their investigation of the attack which left 14 dead and several others seriously wounded,” Fike added.
Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles, said that Farook’s guilty verdict was “gratifying” to the law enforcement community and officials who work tirelessly to uphold federal immigration laws.
“Today’s guilty verdict is gratifying, particularly for the Homeland Security Investigations special agents and other authorities who worked round-the-clock in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack gathering evidence and pursuing leads,” Macias said, according to ICE.
“That said, while this case is drawing to a close, the risk that would-be terrorists and their associates may attempt to exploit America’s legal immigration system as a means to harm Americans remains very real, and we must continue to be ever vigilant,” Macias added.