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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Florida Resident Charged in Superseding Indictment with Attempting to Damage Religious Property

Defendant Was Previously Charged with Attempting to Use Explosive Device on Florida Synagogue

James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, Florida, was charged today by superseding indictment with attempting to damage religious property following his initial charge on May 2, 2016, of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction – an explosive device – at a synagogue in Aventura, Florida.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement. 

Medina is now charged with knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the United States and attempting to damage religious property.  If convicted, Medina faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The arrest was the culmination of an undercover operation during which Medina was closely monitored by the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).  The explosive device that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.

According to allegations contained in the original complaint, in March 2016, Medina came to the attention of the FBI due to his conversations about attacking a synagogue in South Florida.  The FBI was able to gauge Medina’s interest in the plot and collect evidence through the use of a confidential human source (CHS), to whom Medina expressed anti-Semitic views and identified the Aventura-Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura as the target of his attack.

The complaint further alleged that Medina wanted to use an explosive device to commit the attack and engaged the CHS and an undercover FBI employee about the details of his planned criminal conduct.  In preparation for the proposed attack, Medina studied the synagogue property to assess its vulnerabilities.  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 the FBI effectively mitigated any danger posed to the public.

A complaint and indictment are merely accusations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. 

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division and the South Florida JTTF.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc S. Anton and Karen E. Gilbert of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Civil Rights
National Security
Updated June 30, 2016