Federal agents and local police arrested Marcos Alonso Zea, a Long Island resident and American citizen, for allegedly trying to aid al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. "Ali" Zea, as he is known, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and other charges.
Authorities had been on Zea's trail since at least 2011, when he attempted to fly to Yemen to join al-Qaeda's efforts and wage "violent jihad," according to prosecutors. He flew from New York to London, where he was then stopped and sent back to the U.S. by British customs agents. Undeterred by that failure, Zea then allegedly began monetarily helping another Long Island-based al-Qaeda-supporter, Justin Kaliebe, in his efforts to fly to Yemen. Kaliebe didn't get as far than Zea; he was captured by federal agents in January, attempting to board a flight while still in New York.
The son of Guatemalan immigrants, Zea was born an American citizen and converted to Islam around 2009. Zea's mother, a Catholic, said that she had noticed surveillance on her family since Kaliebe's January arrest, and Zea's father said it had become oppressive. "About the only place they haven't followed us is into the bathroom," he said.
That surveillance turned up a wide range of evidence against Zea, prosecutors said, after they seized Zea's computers and found copies of al-Qaeda's "Inspire" online magazine. Prosecutors said Zea had directed an associate to erase the hard drive on his computer and two other hard drives, which U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch described as "a desperate effort to cover his tracks." Undercover NYPD officers also recorded conversations with Zea to as evidence against him.
Zea's co-conspirator, Kaliebe, faces up to 30 years in jail at his sentencing in December.
(Photo of Zea: Handout via Newsday)