December 13, 2013
NY man arrested, charged with al Qaeda ties
US officials arrested a 25-year-old man from suburban New York and charged him in a five-count indictment with attempting to travel to Yemen to join al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The man, Marcos Alonso Zea of Brentwood, pleaded not guilty.
He denied the charges contained in court papers unsealed on Friday contending he sought to join and provide aid to the group, which the United States regards as one of the most active wings of the militant network.
Appearing in US District Court in Central Islip, New York, not far from his home, where he was arrested, Zea answered "yes" when Magistrate Judge Arlene Lindsay asked if he understood the charges contained in the five-count indictment.
No bail offer was made and Lindsay noted that "the evidence strongly suggests the defendant poses a danger to the community and given his previous actions, a risk of flight."
Zea planned to join al Qaeda operations outside the United States that would result in murder, prosecutors charged.
The United States also charged Zea, who appeared in court wearing a brown shirt and brown pants, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, with attempting to give money to al Qaeda affiliates.
Prosecutors said he tried to destroy his computers when he learned he was under investigation. Investigators were able retrieve documents including issues of al Qaeda's "Inspire" magazine from his hard drives. They also recovered a semi-automatic rifle that Zea had given to an acquaintance before leaving for his trip to Yemen, prosecutors said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day 2009 attempt by a Nigerian man to take down a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb concealed in his underwear.
Zea faces five criminal counts that include conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, two counts of trying to provide support to terrorists or terrorist organizations, and two counts of obstruction.
"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," said Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
A woman who answered the phone at Zea's address in Brentwood, located about 50 miles (80 km) east of Manhattan, declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors said that in January 2012, Zea attempted to fly from New York to Yemen, but was intercepted by British customs officials while changing planes and returned to the United States. Having been foiled in his attempt to reach Yemen, he then helped an 18-year-old associate, Justin Kaliebe, attempt a similar trip in January 2013.
Kaliebe was arrested while trying to board a flight to Oman and charged with trying to provide support to terrorists, according to court papers.
Zea's arrest comes less than a month after a New York accountant was sentenced to 18 years in prison for charges that included researching the New York Stock Exchange in 2008 as a potential al Qaeda target.