Wife of man tied to terror attack admits marriage sham

In this Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, photo, flowers and American flags honoring the victims of the attack on Dec. 2 are placed outside the Inland Regional Center where the fatal shooting took place in San Bernardino, Calif. At the IRC, Christmas never came. The staff was still gearing up for the holidays on Dec. 2, the day 14 people were massacred on the center’s gleaming campus. On Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, they'll return to two of the three buildings not damaged in the rampage. (AP Photo/ Nick Ut)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The wife of a man accused of aiding the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack pleaded guilty Thursday in an immigration fraud case and admitted that her marriage was a sham, federal prosecutors said.

Mariyah Chernykh admitted that her marriage to Enrique Marquez Jr., the only person charged in connection with the 2015 terror attack, was a sham designed to enable her to obtain legal status in the U.S. after overstaying a visitor visa in 2009, prosecutors said. Marquez is accused of plotting with Syed Rizwan Farook to carry out attacks and with supplying guns used in the attack that left 14 people dead and 22 injured.

The 26-year-old woman from Ontario was one of three people charged in the marriage fraud case that was unrelated to the December 2015 shootings but came to light in the investigation that followed it. Earlier this month, Farook’s brother, Syed Raheel Farook, pleaded guilty in the immigration fraud case. His wife, Tatiana, was also charged but has denied any wrongdoing and is scheduled for trial in March.

Chernykh pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy, perjury and other charges. She admitted in court that she paid Marquez for his participation in the scheme and that she lied on immigration documents and to federal agents, prosecutors said. Marquez confessed to the scheme when authorities questioned him about the shootings, and he acknowledged getting $200 a month to marry Chernykh, according to court documents.

U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement Thursday that the guilty pleas were “further proof that law enforcement has doggedly investigated all leads stemming from the tragic attack in San Bernardino as we continue our efforts to bring justice to the community.”

Chernykh’s attorney, David Kaloyanides, refused to comment on the plea Thursday. Prosecutors say she faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in November.

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