A 26-year-old Brentwood man has admitted trying to join al-Qaeda two years ago—the fourth Long Islander linked to the global terrorist group since its Sept. 11, 2001 attacks killed nearly 3,000.
Marcos Alonso Zea, aka “Ali Zea,” pleaded guilty Tuesday at Central Islip federal court to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“One of our highest priorities is to protect our nation by identifying, disrupting, and holding accountable those who provide or attempt to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations,” said John Carlin, Assistant U.S. Attorney General for National Security. “This case serves unambiguous notice that attempting to travel abroad to engage in such conduct has significant consequences.”
Prosecutors said Zea boarded a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to London on Jan. 4, 2012. He was set to fly from England to Yemen, where he planned to wage violent jihad, when British investigators interviewed him and returned Zea to the United States, authorities said.
Undeterred, Zea continued to plot along with co-conspirator, 19-year-old Justin Kaliebe of Bay Shore, who was arrested while also boarding a plane to Yemen and pleaded guilty to similar crimes last year and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
When Zea realized that investigators were monitoring him, he destroyed electronic evidence on his computer—evidence that forensic experts recovered. The materials included violent Islamic extremist materials, such as issues of Inspire, al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine.
Samir Khan, a 25-year-old Westbury native, had been editor of that magazine when he was killed in a U.S. drone missile strike in Yemen three years ago. Before Zea, Kaliebe and Khan, the first local resident to join al-Qaeda was Bryant Neal Vinas, a Patchogue native who pleaded guilty to helping the group plot to blow up the Long Island Rail Road in 2008.
Judge Sandra Feuerstein is expected to sentence Zea to 25 years in prison on Jan. 14. He had faced up to life in prison.