A Stock Island man deliberately tried to bomb a Keys beach in 2015 when he accepted a backpack bomb from men he believed were ISIS sympathizers, a federal jury in West decided on Tuesday.
The guilty verdict came after about 1 1/2 hours of deliberations after a seven-day trial.
Harlem Suarez, 25, testified Monday he was only playing along with the men he met online by posting calls to arms for ISIS. His attorney called the case entrapment.
Prosecutors, though, told jurors Suarez went to great lengths, taking actions that led toward setting off a backpack bomb at a Keys beach, including obtaining the bomb and making a video to recruit new ISIS members. No bomb was set off.
“He willingly took possession of a bomb,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton said during the government’s rebuttal, which followed the defense’s closing argument Tuesday. “We’re not talking about some drugs. He took possession of a bomb.”
Sentencing is set for April 18 at the federal courthouse in Key West.
Suarez later found out the three men were government informants, who each testified against him last week.
Jurors heard hours of phone conversations that Suarez had no idea were being recorded when he called the men he believed could supply him with grenades, ammunition and the bomb. He also asked for a “rocket” before driving to Homestead to meet at a motel where he left with the inert bomb.
Text messages, Facebook posts and friend requests looking for ISIS sympathizers and would-be terrorists also were entered into evidence against Suarez, whose mother Vilma Quintana on Tuesday cried in the courthouse hallway during a break between closing arguments.
During the trial, Bernardo Suarez prayed the Rosary almost silently as prosecutors described his son as a potential mass killer.
Anton held the bomb in his hands during his argument.
“He never backed out,” Anton said. “It was the defendant continuously reengaging time and time again.
Born in Cuba, Suarez came to the Florida Keys when he was about 11. When he was arrested July 27, 2015, he lived with his parents at a Stock Island apartment and had worked as a cook, at Kmart, and at the airport.
As previously posted on Creeping Sharia, he Planned to Detonate a Nail Bomb on a Key West Beach and Behead Christians:
Someone tipped off the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office after receiving a friend request from someone using the name “Almlak Benitez.”
The PBSO then tipped off the FBI, and the agency then tracked back the “Benitez” page to Suarez’s profile that he kept under his real name.
“Be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate,” he wrote in one such posting.
He allegedly planned to use a weapon known as a “timer bomb,” a device that is filled with nails and able to be concealed easily in a backpack. Suarez planned to bury the bomb under the sand on a public beach and then detonate the device via cell phone.
Read or download the Complaint here.
“We are the islamic state We are isis Muslims, “HAnd soon we will the rest of warrior will come to here us @from Canada and mexico and bring the caliphate here And start fighting who are agints Muslims,” and “We are you behad cristians isis.”