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Press Release

Monroe County Resident Convicted At Trial Of Attempting To Use A Weapon Of Mass Destruction And Attempting to Provide Material Support To A Terrorist Organization

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

This afternoon, a federal jury in Key West convicted a South Florida resident of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, an explosive device, and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mary B. McCord, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), made the announcement.

Harlem Suarez, a/k/a “Almlak Benitez,” 23, of Monroe County, Florida, was convicted at trial of knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a(a)(2) and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B. Suarez is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez in Key West, on April 18, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

“By intending to place an explosive device on a public beach, Harlem Suarez posed a grave threat to the residents and visitors of Key West,” stated U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “It is because of the Joint Terrorism Task Force’s unwavering commitment to our national security that law enforcement is able to prevent potential attacks on American soil that are inspired or directed by terrorist organizations. Let this case serve as an example to others that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners stand as a united front against all domestic threats.”

“Harlem Suarez, a self-professed ISIL adherent, attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction - a backpack bomb - in the United States and now stands convicted of two terrorism offenses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Stopping attacks on our homeland by those inspired or directed by designated foreign terrorist organizations is the highest priority of the National Security Division. I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for today’s result.”

"Suarez wanted to kill innocent people by detonating a nail laced explosive filled backpack on a crowded Key West beach," said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “He was denied his terroristic dreams by several hardworking, dedicated law enforcement organizations and professionals. This is a job well done."

According to evidence introduced at trial, in April 2015, Suarez’s Facebook postings contained extremist rhetoric and promoted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Evidence further indicated that Suarez told an FBI confidential human source that he wanted to make a “timer bomb.” Suarez purchased components for this device, which was to contain galvanized nails, be concealed in a backpack and be remotely detonated by a cellular telephone. Suarez intended to bury the device at a public beach in Key West and then detonate it.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, JTTF, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Key West Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Marc S. Anton and Karen E. Gilbert with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Sectionof the U.S. Department of Justice.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated April 17, 2017