Federal authorities arrested a Stock Island man Tuesday on terrorism charges, accusing him of planning to attack Fourth of July events in either Marathon or Miami Beach, or both, using a bomb.
Harlem Suarez, 23, who also goes by the name Almlak Benitez, faces life in prison on a charge of knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Suarez reportedly told undercover FBI informants on July 3 that he wanted to attack police by either detonating a car bomb or by placing bombs underneath police cruisers.
Suarez allegedly came to the attention of authorities after a person to whom Suarez sent a Facebook request noticed his Islamist extremist posts, according to the criminal complaint. That person sent the information to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office on April 8.
The Sheriff's Office showed screen shots of Suarez's Facebook page, which was under the name Almlak Benitez, to the FBI, which set up a sting operation using the informants.
Suarez told the informants that he considered himself a member of the Islamic State and that "one day I will cook American" ... "in cages" ... "flaming."
One of the informants, posing as a member of Islamic State, told Suarez at a meeting in a Homestead hotel room that he would get back to him with prices for grenades and other explosive material needed to make a backpack bomb.
The July 4 attacks never happened, but Suarez continued to discuss buying the grenades and backpack bomb materials, authorities say.
During a recorded phone call with one of the informants, Suarez said he needed to learn to make a timer for the bombs. Suarez and the FBI informants also filmed a video aimed at recruiting local Muslims to join Islamic State.
He legally purchased an AK-47 assault rifle online but when he went to pick it up from a Key West pawn shop, which is not named in the arrest report, he filled out the paperwork wrong and the pawn shop clerk would not give him the weapon.
Suarez told one of the informants he planned to test the bomb by burying it in the sand on a Key West beach and detonating it using a cell phone timer.
"I can go to the beach at night time ... put the thing in the sand ... cover it up so the next day I just call and the thing is gonna, is gonna make a real hard noise from nowhere, and like people are gonna be like what, where is this [expletive] came from," Suarez told the informant, according to the arrest report.
One of the sources told Suarez on a recorded phone call the bomb was ready and they could meet on July 27. When the men met inside a car, the informant showed Suarez how to detonate the bomb, which was a fake. Federal agents arrested him when he exited the car.
"There is no room for failure when it comes to investigating the potential use of a weapon of mass destruction," George L. Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami office, said in a statement. "The FBI and our local, state and federal partners work around the clock to prevent such catastrophic weapons from being used against our citizens. Even so, we ask the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to law enforcement."