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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Jacksonville Man Who Planned Attack On Mosque Sentenced To Five Years In Federal Prison

Jacksonville, Florida – U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger has sentenced Bernandino G. Bolatete (69, Jacksonville) to five years in federal prison for possession of an unregistered firearms silencer. A federal jury found Bolatete guilty on May 11, 2018. 

According to court documents, Bolatete came to the attention of law enforcement when a confidential source reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that Bolatete had a plan to conduct a mass shooting at a local mosque if he learned, as he expected to, that his only kidney had failed and he would have to undergo dialysis. In response, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation that included introducing Bolatete to an undercover detective (UC), with whom Bolatete shared his plan to attack the mosque. The investigation revealed that Bolatete had a collection of firearms and was nearly always armed. Bolatete also suggested to the UC that he had visited the mosque in the past. He also shared which of his firearms he would use for the attack and repeatedly bragged about having shot someone with a silencer-equipped firearm. Bolatete advised the UC on the best ways to put a hit on an adversary. 

When the UC told Bolatete that he had a source with access to silencers, Bolatete asked to buy one and insisted that it not be registered with the government (registration is required by federal law). Bolatete also sent a text message to the UC suggesting that he could use the silencer to take out the UC’s adversary. 

Bolatete was arrested on December 1, 2017, after the UC sold him an unregistered silencer for $100. After his arrest, Bolatete admitted that he had possessed the unregistered silencer but claimed that he had purchased it for hunting.  When FBI agents searched his home and car, they found a significant collection of firearms and ammunition, including the specific firearms that Bolatete had told the UC that he would use to conduct the mass shooting at the mosque.

“The FBI will not stand for threats of violence in our community against any group,” said Charles P. Spencer, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division, “and we will work to uphold the civil rights and liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution for all Americans including the right to practice religion in peace. The Jacksonville community is safer today thanks to the vigilance of community members who saw something out of the ordinary and reported those concerns, as well as the cooperation of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners. We also commend the outstanding work of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office which was vital to the success of this case.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said, “As subject matter experts in violent crime, firearms and explosives, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep illegal firearms out of our communities.”         

“I thank our FDLE agents and law enforcement partners for swiftly investigating this threat ensuring no one was hurt,” said FDLE Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge John Burke. “I urge all Floridians to report suspicious activity. If you see something, say something, call 855-FLA-Safe or 911.”

This case was investigated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Cofer Taylor and Michael J. Coolican.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated September 18, 2018