The brother of the San Bernardino shooter and two Russian sisters have been charged with marriage fraud in a case that surfaced through investigations following the December 2 shooting.
Syed Raheel Farook, brother of shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, was charged in federal court with fraudulently marrying Russian woman Tatiana Chernykh in order to allow her to stay in the United States after her visa expired.
The marriage scheme came to light in the wake of the shootings, when officials questioned the only person charged in connection to the shootings, Enrique Marquez, Jr. (Both shooters were killed by law enforcement following the massacre.) Mr. Marquez admitted that his own marriage to Ms. Chernykh’s sister, Mariya, was fraudulent.
Marquez told officials that he received $200 per month in order to remain married to Chernykh, whose visa expired in 2009.
Although all three people charged in this case have connections to the San Bernardino shooters, their legal representatives are quick to remind the public that this case is unrelated to the December shootings.
"This is about a misrepresentation of an act of marriage. This is not about terrorism," said Farook’s attorney, Ronald Cordova.
Farook’s mother posted bond for both her son and his wife, Tatiana, $25,000 each. Mariya’s boyfriend (not Marquez) and the father of her child posted her $50,000 bond, which was higher than Farook and her sister’s, as authorities say she is most culpable for the marriage scheme.
James Wedick, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, says the government may have brought charges against the three individuals as a bargaining chip to obtain more information about the shooting.
"It suggests to me they weren't talking so the government decided to ask a grand jury to return charges," Mr. Wedick told the Associated Press. "If they were cooperating, they'd probably make some kind of deal."
Farook’s lawyer says that his client’s cooperation with the government may have led to the trouble he is in today. Cordova told the Associated Press that in cooperating with the government as openly as he did, Farook may have inadvertently shared information that led to current charges.
If convicted, Farook, his wife, and her sister will each face up to five years in prison for lying on immigration documents.
Mariya Chernykh, however, could face up to twenty five years for related charges, including misuse of visas and perjury.
All three individuals are set to stand trial on June 21 in Los Angeles.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.