A Florida man has been charged with attempting to blow up a synagogue that doubles as a school, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday.
James Gonzalo Medina, 40, was charged Saturday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction on the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. The FBI said when it found out Medina was interested in carrying out the attack, it sent a confidential informant to talk with him. Medina discussed his anti-Semitic beliefs and told the informant about his plans. The informant provided him with a fake bomb, and authorities arrested him Friday as he went to place it at the synagogue.
“In preparation for the proposed attack, Medina studied the synagogue property to assess its vulnerabilities,” the DOJ said in a press release. “On April 29, 2016, Medina took possession of an inert explosive device and was arrested while approaching the synagogue. Medina was under FBI surveillance and, once the FBI became involved, it worked to effectively mitigate any danger posed to the public.”
According to the criminal complaint, Medina talked with the informant about leaving behind some kind of note so that people accredited the attack to Islamic State or an al-Qaida-linked group.
From the complaint: “MEDINA liked the idea, stating, ‘You can, you can do all that. Yeah, we can print up or something and make it look like it’s ISIS here in America. Just like that.’ MEDINA felt the news of this attack conducted in this manner would go nationwide and inspire other Muslims to attack as well.”
Medina now faces up to life in prison if convicted. Synagogue officials said authorities told them there are currently no credible threats against the synagogue.
“We are extremely grateful to our partners in law enforcement for their professionalism, care and commitment throughout this incident, and for providing us with security all year-round,” Jonathan Berkun and Elliot Karp, the synagogue rabbi and executive director, said in a joint statement. “We greatly appreciate your concern as well.
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