WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Baltimore man was arrested on Wednesday on charges he plotted to detonate a vehicle bomb at a U.S. Armed Forces recruitment center in Maryland, a plot that was a sting operation, the Justice Department said.
Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, was charged with attempted murder of federal officers and employees and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, according to the criminal complaint filed in a federal court in Baltimore.
“Every person Mr. Martinez asked to join in his scheme either declined to participate, tried to talk him out of it or reported him to the FBI, and there is no evidence that Mr. Martinez received direction or support from any other person,” said Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland.
Officials said Martinez was monitored closely by law enforcement agents to mitigate any potential threat.
Authorities were alerted to Martinez, 21, in October by an FBI confidential source who saw his Facebook posts about Islam. The source told them he had talked with Martinez about his desire to attack the recruiting office in Catonsville, Maryland, according to an FBI affidavit.
The affidavit said that Martinez, who had recently converted to Islam, talked to the source about getting guns to shoot the people at the recruiting station from a nearby roof or fashion homemade bombs to throw at them.
At one point, Martinez tried to recruit three others to help with the plot, but they refused, the affidavit said. After Martinez insisted on proceeding, according to the affidavit, the confidential source offered to introduce him to a “brother” who could help but in fact was an undercover FBI agent.
At one point, the confidential FBI source spoke with Martinez about whether to go forward and tried to determine if he was feeling pushed. Martinez replied, “I came to you about this brother,” the FBI affidavit said.
The arrest is the latest in a series of FBI sting operations involving terrorism plots, including one case in which an Oregon man was arrested last month on charges he tried to detonate a car bomb near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland.
When news of that case broke, Martinez confided in the FBI’s confidential source that he wanted to know who the “brother” was helping them and told him, “I’m not falling for no b.s.,” according to the affidavit.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended such sting operations, saying they were integral to finding people who are on a path to attack the United States and Americans. Some defense lawyers have questioned whether they were entrapment.
“These investigations are extremely important, it is part of a forward-leaning way in which the Justice Department, the FBI, our law enforcement partners at the state and local level are trying to find people who are bound and determined to harm Americans and American interests around the world,” Holder said last week.
Editing by Peter Cooney