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California duo borrowed $28,000 before attack

REUTERS
Published : Dec 10, 2015, 3:03 am IST
Updated : Dec 10, 2015, 3:03 am IST

A married couple who killed 14 people in a California shooting rampage the FBI is investigating as an act of terrorism borrowed about $28,000 from an online lender, a sum deposited into their bank acc

A married couple who killed 14 people in a California shooting rampage the FBI is investigating as an act of terrorism borrowed about $28,000 from an online lender, a sum deposited into their bank account about two weeks before the attack, sources said on Tuesday.

Disclosure of the unsecured loan the husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, took out from San Francisco-based Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending service, offered a new glimpse into the money trail under scrutiny by investigators of last week’s mass shooting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has described Farook, the US-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, as a couple “radicalised” by Islamic extremist ideology.

They were radicalised before they started dating, FBI director James Comey told Congress on Wednesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s terror probe has determined that the couple were inspired by foreign terror groups and discussed “jihad and martyrdom” as early as 2013, Mr Comey said.

Authorities say the heavily armed couple opened fire on Farook’s co-workers from the county Environmental Health Department during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Centre social services agency in San Bernardino, about 60 100 km east of Los Angeles.

In yet another twist to the case, state marital records on Tuesday revealed that the man said by authorities to have furnished the couple with the two assault-style rifles used in the attack was related by marriage to Farook’s family.

Specifically, Enrique Marquez, whose home was raided over the weekend and was being questioned by federal investigators on Tuesday, became married last year to Mariya Chernykh, whose sister is married to Farook’s older brother, Raheel Farook.

One government source told Reuters that Farook and Malik apparently followed a pattern set by other militants who drained their bank accounts and exhausted credit lines before embarking on what they believed would be a suicide mission. A separate source said that Prosper, a San Francisco-based online lender, made a $28,500 collateral-free loan to Farook in mid-November. Loans made by Prosper, which processes borrowers’ applications and evaluates their credit-worthiness, are originated by the third-party bank WebBank, based in Salt Lake City. Prosper then sells its loans to investors.

Fox News first reported on Monday that a deposit of $28,500 was made into Farook’s bank account from WebBank.com on November 18, and that Farook converted $10,000 in cash, which he withdrew from a Union Bank branch in San Bernardino around Nov. 20. Fox also reported at least three $5,000 transfers were made in the days before the shooting, apparently to Farook’s mother.

WebBank issued a statement expressing condolences to victims of the San Bernardino shooting but declined further comment, citing confidentiality restrictions.

In addition to the pair of rifles and semi-automatic handguns they carried the day of the killings, the couple were found to have amassed thousands of rounds of ammunition, along with explosives and other materials for making as many as 19 pipe bombs, according to the FBI.

One booby-trap consisting of three pipe bombs rigged to a remote-controlled device that failed to detonate was left by the killers at the scene of the attack, apparently intended to go off as the police and emergency personnel swarmed the location, law enforcement officials said.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch said the US has no indication that the couple were part of a wider cell or that they planned more attacks.

“At this point in time we do not have an indication that these two people were part of a larger cell or group,” she said.

The couple last week had communicated with “people with extremist views” in the Los Angeles area, MSNBC reported.

Location: United States, California, San Bernardino