A New York man sought to join an al-Qaida group in Yemen, conspired to commit murders overseas and tried to destroy evidence when he realized he was under investigation, authorities said after his arrest Friday.
Marcos Alonso Zea, 25, was arrested at his home in Brentwood on Long Island and was held for an initial court appearance in federal court. He was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to support terrorists and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and obstruction of justice. It was not clear who would represent him.
Federal prosecutors accused Zea of planning to travel overseas to wage violent jihad on the perceived enemies of Islam, including Yemen’s secular government.
They said he flew to London en route to Yemen in January to join Ansar al-Sharia, an alias for al-Qaida in the Middle East region, though he was rejected by customs officials in the United Kingdom and returned to the United States.
Once home, Zea continued participating in the conspiracy, providing money and instructing co-conspirator Justin Kaliebe on how to evade electronic surveillance by law enforcement as he discussed Kaliebe’s plans to fight jihad, according to court papers.
After learning he was under investigation, Zea directed an associate to erase a hard drive on his home computer and gave an associate two more hard drives to destroy, though investigators recovered them anyway, authorities said.
“Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen in order to join a terrorist organization and commit murder,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
She said once investigators were on his trail, “he engaged in a desperate effort to cover his tracks by attempting to destroy evidence – a tactic that only confirmed his violent aims.”
Kaliebe has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support. He is awaiting sentencing in December.
George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office, said Zea was inspired by terrorist propaganda.
Venizelos said that when Zea realized he was being investigated, “he feverishly attempted to destroy the incriminating evidence.”
Among violent Islamic extremist materials found on Zea’s computer, authorities said, were issues of an al-Qaida publication that promotes violent jihad, which contained articles such as “Which is Better: Martyrdom or Victory?” ”Why did I choose al Qaeda?” and “What to Expect in Jihad?”
Investigators said they also found an al-Qaida-produced video depicting detonation of an explosive device on a vehicle carrying western military personnel.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the arrest “a vivid reminder of the threat we continue to face from domestic Islamic terrorists.”