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Prosecutors: Alleged San Bernardino gun buyer knew aspiring jihadists

LOS ANGELES -- The friend who bought the high-powered rifles used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack had ties to a group of California jihadists arrested in 2012 as they tried to fly to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda, federal prosecutors said.

The revelation in a court document filed Tuesday is the first time authorities have linked Enrique Marquez Jr. with other possible terrorists. The FBI has always said its investigators couldn't find any link between Marquez and other terrorists.

Marquez, 24, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring with one of the San Bernardino shooters to provide material support to terrorists for an unrelated plot.

He is also charged with a federal firearms charge for purchasing the guns used by Syed Rizwan Farook and Farook's wife, Tashfeen Malik, in the Dec. 2 attacks in which they killed 14 people before dying in a gunfight with police.

Marquez is scheduled to make his next court appearance on June 27, CBS Los Angeles reported. His trial is expected to begin in July.

Prosecutors said Marquez plotted in 2011 and 2012 with Farook to massacre college students and gun down motorists on a gridlocked freeway and bought two rifles for Farook.

Marquez said he backed out of the plot after four men in the area about 60 miles inland from Los Angeles were arrested on terrorism charges in late 2012, the FBI said in court documents.

Until now, however, court documents did not connect him to any other terror plots.

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In a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the government to seize a life insurance payout to Farook's mother, however, federal prosecutors linked Marquez to a group of California jihadists.

"During this period, Marquez had ties to a group of jihadists ('California jihadists') who were arrested in 2012 when they attempted to travel to Afghanistan to join" al Qaeda, the suit said.

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The suit provided no further details and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment.

The brief mention, however, is similar to arrests of four men from the area in 2012 who were later convicted of plotting to join the Taliban or al Qaeda to kill American troops. Three of the four were apprehended as they headed to Mexico to catch a flight to the Middle East to rendezvous with the fourth man in Afghanistan.

Marquez has also been implicated in a marriage fraud case. Last month, his wife was arrested along with Farook's brother, Syed Raheel Farook, and the brother's wife, Tatiana.

The sham marriage was between Marquez and Mariya Chernykh, prosecutors said. They wed so she could obtain immigration benefits unavailable to her as a Russian citizen without legal status in the U.S., according to authorities.

Chernykh is the sister of Tatiana Farook, both Russian immigrants who came to the U.S. on visas for work or student exchanges.

The FBI has said Marquez acknowledged getting $200 a month to marry Chernykh, and bank statements back that up, according to the indictment charging the trio.

None of the three is accused of involvement in the shooting. They have pleaded not guilty.

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