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Federal agents and local police say a Long Island man has been arrested on terror-related charges for allegedly conspiring with several associates, including an 18-year-old former Long Island high school student, to provide material support to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, authorities said. Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst has more.
Federal agents and local police say a Long Island man has been arrested on terror-related charges for allegedly conspiring with several associates, including an 18-year-old former high school student, to provide material support to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, authorities said
Members of the FBI and NYPD arrested Marcos Alonso Zea, of Brentwood, Friday morning. A grand jury charged Zea with conspiracy to commit murder and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Zea, who pleaded not guilty, is being held without bail.
Zea, who also goes by the name "Ali Zea," allegedly flew from Kennedy Airport to London en route to Yemen to provide money and other resources to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in 2011, but was stopped by British customs agents and sent back to the United States.
FBI New York Director George Venizelos said when Zea’s trip to Yemen failed, he allegedly “turned to financing and inspiring another Long Island man’s commitment to global terror.”
Prosecutors say he allegedly conspired with Justin Kaliebe, of Babylon, upon his return to the U.S. Zea allegedly advised Kaliebe on how best to travel to Yemen to wage "violent jihad," and gave him money. Kaliebe was arrested in January at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight.
Kaliebe, who was a student at Babylon High School at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty in February to attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Investigators said Kaliebe approached an undercover officer about joining a terror group and admitted he followed teachings of terrorist Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman — the blind sheik tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Kaliebe was recorded saying he wanted to travel to Yemen to fight the “Yemeni army” and to kill “those who are fighting against the Sharia of Allah … whether it’s the U.S. drones or their puppets,” prosecutors said. He then allegedly said he hoped he could die fighting for his terrorist cause. In a July 9 recording, officials said he praised Osama bin Laden for showing how to bring “an entire nation to its knees.”
An undercover NYPD intelligence officer was able to meet with Kaliebe and Zea, both of whom were born in the United States, and get the pair on tape also, officials said.
Zea's mother, Sandra Zea, tells NBC 4 New York her son was questioned in January, and he told authorities he knew nothing "because he did not do anything." Sandra Zea said authorities put surveillance teams on her son Marcos, and also followed his brother.
Three months ago, she said authorities seized computers from her home. Sandra Zea says that her son is a generous, shy man who enjoys his studies and isn't the type to be affiliated with any terrorist organization.
"He’s a good, good guy -- a good son, a good brother, a good person with anybody," said Sandra Zea, who immigrated to the United States from Guatemala 30 years ago. "I know my son ... I don’t understand what is going on here. I want this thing cleared.”
Prosecutors confirm Zea's computers were seized, and said he allegedly tried to have an associate erase his hard drives. A search allegedly yielded copies of al-Qaida's "Inspire" magazine.
He also allegedly tried to give a semi-automatic rifle to an associate who was traveling to Yemen.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Zea's attorney would not comment on the charges except to say that her client was pleading not guilty.
His father, Alvaro Zea, said his son had been "set up" and would be cleared of all charges.