A federal grand jury in Victoria, Texas, has returned a three-count superseding indictment against Marq Vincent Perez, 25, for allegedly burning the Victoria Islamic Center on January 28, 2017.
Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez made the announcement along with Acting Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Wheeler II of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI and various state and local law enforcement agencies.
Perez was previously indicted for possession of an unregistered destructive device for an incident that occurred on January 15, 2017. The superseding indictment returned today now charges him with a hate crime – damage to a religious property as well as use of a fire to commit a federal felony in relation to the arson at the mosque.
Perez was initially arrested and charged March 3, 2017, in connection with an attempt to blow up a car with a destructive device. At a detention hearing held the following week, court heard evidence linking Perez to a January 22, 2017, burglary of the Victoria Islamic Center as well as a January 28, 2017, burglary and arson of the same mosque. Perez is in custody pending further criminal proceedings.
If convicted, Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the hate crime. He also faces up to 10 years for possessing an unregistered destructive device. If convicted of use of a fire to commit a felony, the penalty is a consecutive and mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. All of the counts also carry a potential $250,000 penalty.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
ATF and FBI conducted the investigation along with the City of Victoria Fire Marshal’s Office, Victoria Fire Department, Victoria Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety - Criminal Investigations Division and Texas Rangers with assistance of Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office and sheriff’s offices in Victoria and Nueces Counties.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sharad S. Khandelwal and Kate Suh are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.