RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A confidant of one of the terrorists who carried out a 2015 massacre in San Bernardino pleaded guilty Thursday to charges he conspired to commit acts of terror in Riverside. Enrique Marquez Jr., 25, admitted to one count each of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements in the acquisition of firearms.
Marquez formally acknowledged his crimes during a morning hearing before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal at the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside.
The defendant -- being held without bail at the federal detention center in San Bernardino -- could face up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Aug. 21.
``This defendant collaborated with and purchased weapons for a man who carried out the devastating December 2, 2015, terrorist attack that took the lives of 14 innocent people, wounded nearly two dozen and impacted our entire nation,'' U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said Tuesday.
``While his earlier plans to attack a school and a freeway were not executed, the planning clearly laid the foundation for the 2015 attack on the Inland Regional Center.''
According to prosecutors, Marquez was a close associate of 28-year-old Sayeed Rizwan Farook, who teamed with his wife, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, to carry out the rampage at the IRC following a Christmas party there. Both died a few hours later in a gun battle with police.
Marquez stated on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form that he was the actual buyer of the two high-capacity semi-automatic rifles with which Farook and Malik armed themselves.
``Marquez purchased two of the weapons used in the terror attack ... a horrific act which led to great suffering and a lifetime of pain for the survivors and for the loved ones of those murdered,'' said Deirdre Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.
``Marquez provided these weapons to his associate, Farook, with whom he conspired to plot chilling terror attacks.''
The defendant moved to Riverside and met Farook, his next-door neighbor, in 2005. Under the future terrorist's sway, Marquez converted to Islam, after which he adopted a radical philosophy, and by late 2011, the pair was preparing to perpetrate terrorist attacks, prosecutors allege.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Marquez admitted making plans with Farook to commit mass murder at the library or cafeteria of Riverside City College.
The two men also schemed to go on a killing spree on the eastbound Riverside (91) Freeway during afternoon rush-hour, identifying a particular section of roadway that had no exits, according to the FBI.
The defendant apparently backed out of the terrorist plots after the arrests in 2012 of four Inland Empire men who were gearing up to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. All four were convicted and sentenced to between 10 and 25 years in federal prison.
Marquez also allegedly engaged in a sham marriage with a Russian immigrant, who is the sister-in-law of 31-year-old Syed Farook, the terrorist's elder sibling.
Mariya Chernykh, 26, and Marquez went all-out to make their fake nuptials appear legitimate, taking staged family photos, creating a joint checking account and a back-dated lease that implied they shared a marital
residence, enabling her to remain in the country and collect benefits, according to court papers.
Marquez and Chernykh signed immigration documents, under penalty of perjury, falsely stating that they both lived at the same Riverside address, prosecutors said. However, Chernykh eventually moved in with another man in Ontario, while Marquez received money from her as part of the arrangement, according to court documents.
Marriage and immigrant fraud charges against Marquez will apparently be dismissed today under the plea deal.
Last month, Chernykh admitted charges of conspiracy, perjury and making false statements to federal officials. She's slated to be sentenced on Nov. 20.
In a separate plea agreement, Syed Farook admitted a conspiracy charge.
He's slated to be sentenced on Nov. 13 -- the same day as his wife, 32-year-old Tatiana Farook, Chernykh's sister, who last week admitted a conspiracy count.
All three are free on bond. Farook and his wife are each facing five years behind bars; Chernykh is facing up to 20 years.