Brentwood Man Gets 25 Years for Trying to Join al-Qaeda

A Brentwood man was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison after admitting last year to trying to join the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, aka Ansar al-Sharia.

Marcos Alonso Zea, aka “Ali Zea,” had pleaded guilty in September at Central Islip federal court to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.

“Marcos Alonso Zea presents a chilling reminder of the danger presented to the United States by homegrown terrorists,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Prosecutors said the 26-year-old man planned to travel overseas in order to wage violent jihad beginning in 2012, when he boarded a flight at John F. Kennedy Airport to London, with a stop on his way to Yemen, but British authorities returned him to the United States.

He continued plotting along with his co-conspirator, 19-year-old Justin Kaliebe, who was later arrested at JFK airport while trying to fly to Yemen to join al-Qaeda. Kaliebe has pleaded guilty to similar crimes and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Upon learning that he was under investigation, Zea tried to destroy electronic evidence on his computer, but forensic experts recovered it anyway. The materials included violent Islamic extremist materials, such as issues of Inspire, al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine.

The two men are the third and fourth Long Islanders to be arrested for trying to join the global terrorist group since its Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The other two include Samir Khan, a 25-year-old Westbury native, who had been editor of that magazine when he was killed in a U.S. drone missile strike in Yemen in 2011. The first local resident known 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.