Four men with ties to the Inland Empire have been charged with allegedly plotting to provide material support to terrorists and making arrangements to join Al-Qai'da and the Taliban in Afghanistan in order to kill, among others, American targets, the FBI Field Office in Los Angeles announced Monday evening.
The defendants were identified as:
• Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, a former resident of Pomona and naturalized United States citizen, born in Afghanistan.
• Ralph Deleon, 23, of Ontario, a lawful permanent resident alien, born in the Philippines.
• Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland, a lawful permanent resident, born in Mexico and whose application for citizenship is pending in the United States.
• Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, a United States citizen.
The defendants are also known by alias identities listed in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, according to an FBI statement. A pdf copy of the complaint is attached to this report.
Santana, Deleon and Gojali were apprehended Friday Nov. 16 without incident by Joint Terrorism Task Force personnel and made their initial appearance before a federal magistrate Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside, according to the FBI. Kabir was already in custody in Afghanistan.
Details of the defendants' plans were released Monday by André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, and Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.
According to the complaint, the defendants conspired to provide material support to terrorists in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A, knowing or intending that such support was to be used in preparation for or in carrying out:
- conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons and damage property in a foreign country, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 956;
- killing and attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1114;
- killing nationals of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b);
- conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a(b); and
- bombing places of public use and government facilities, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332f.
The complaint was unsealed Monday Nov. 19 during the defendants' initial appearance in U.S. District Court, according to the FBI. The complaint alleges:
In 2010, Kabir allegedly "introduced Deleon and Santana to radical and violent Islamic doctrine and various extremist material, including essays and lectures by now-deceased Al Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula leader, Anwar Al-Awlaqi."
Kabir traveled overseas in December 2011 and to Afghanistan in July 2012, where he continued to communicate with Santana and DeLeon to arrange for their travel to join him in Afghanistan, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges Kabir told Santana and Deleon he had made contacts with individuals who have connections to terrorist organizations.
Kabir further said he would wait for their arrival before departing to a training location in Afghanistan and that, when they arrived, they would meet "the students" - the Taliban - and "the professors" - Al Qa'ida, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges Santana and Deleon told a confidential source working for the FBI that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to engage in "violent jihad."
"In addition, the defendants described potential targets for violent attacks, including overseas American military personnel and bases," according to the FBI.
Evidence in the case demonstrates that the defendants used the word "jihad" to refer to armed combat, according to the complaint.
The defendants discussed the plot among themselves and with the confidential source, according to the complaint. Conversations allegedly detail the defendants' plans to travel overseas to attend terrorist training, as well as to kill American soldiers and others.
"In one discussion with the FBI confidential source, Santana and Deleon discussed their preferred roles in carrying out attacks," an FBI statement said. "For example, Santana stated that he had experience with firearms and that he wanted to become a sniper. Deleon stated he wanted to be on the front lines with a second choice of explosives. Both men also indicated they were willing to kill an enemy."
In September 2012, Deleon and Santana recruited Gojali to join them and to travel overseas to commit violent jihad, the complaint alleges. Santana, Deleon and Gojali allegedly made plans to join Kabir in Afghanistan to attend terrorist training, and they arranged travel logistics, including flight arrangements and required documentation.
The complaint details the defendants' fundraising for travel to Afghanistan, and their discussion of various cover stories and code words they could use to conceal their true intentions when traveling abroad, according to the FBI.
"The complaint further alleges that Santana, Deleon, and Gojali conducted preliminary training in southern California at firearms and paintball facilities to prepare for terrorist training overseas," the FBI statement said.
Santana and Deleon were remanded to federal custody and Gojali's detention hearing was continued to Monday Nov. 26.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, according to the FBI.
The case is a continuing investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Riverside, which includes personnel from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Riverside Police, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Beaumont Police, Ontario Police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI.
The case will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.