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Wife in Sham Marriage to San Bernardino Shooter's Friend Pleads Guilty

by Andrew Blankstein /

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The wife to a friend of San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges in connection with a sham marriage, federal prosecutors said.

Mariya Chernykh, a Russian national married to Enrique Marquez Jr., pleaded guilty to conspiracy, perjury and making false statements.

She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars when she is sentenced Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court in Riverside County.

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Marquez is awaiting trial for allegedly buying two semi-automatic rifles used in the deadly Dec. 2, 2015, attack carried out by Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik that left 14 people dead. Farook and Malik were killed in a shootout with police.

Marquez also faces charges in the sham marriage case. Prosecutors have said Chernykh and Marquez didn’t live together, and she was paying him $200 a month. She was living with another man, but the arrangement allowed Chernykh to stay in the U.S.

Federal authorities say Marquez and Chernykh included taking staged family pictures and creating a back-dated lease "to create the illusion that they shared a marital residence with Chernykh's sister Tatiana who was married to Syed Raheel Farook, Rizwan Farook’s brother.

Image: Enrique Marquez
Enrique Marquez appears in federal court in Riverside, Calif., on Dec. 21, 2015. Bill Robles / AP

Marquez, 24, is also alleged to have bought explosive material which was then later found in a pipe bomb recovered at the scene of the shooting rampage at the San Bernardino Inland Occupation Center.

Nonetheless, the most serious charges center around Marquez allegedly planning with Rizwan Farook in 2011 to carry out a pipe bomb and shooting attack at Riverside College, where they both were students. The attack was never carried out.

The charge of providing material assistance to terrorists carries up to 15 years in prison, and the three counts of making false statements carry up to 10 years each, prosecutors said. The count of marriage fraud carries up to five years in prison.

Raheel Farook earlier this month pleaded to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud in connection with the sham marriage. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

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