The men wiped their Facebook pages of radical Islamist content and photos of themselves in traditional Muslim attire, and devised a cover story that they were going to Afghanistan to attend Kabir’s wedding.
Federal authorities said the trio and the FBI’s confidential source bought airplane tickets last week for a Sunday flight from Mexico City to Istanbul, with plans to later continue to Kabul.
After Kabir began talking to him about Islam, Santana said he “accepted Islam without knowing anything about it besides it being the truth” and that he believed the religion would help him “fit in and actually be able to fight for something that’s right,” according to the complaint.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.
Kabir is being detained in Afghanistan. The other three appeared for a detention hearing Monday in Riverside, and all but Gojali were remanded to federal custody with no bail. His detention hearing was delayed.
After-hours calls left for the men’s attorneys were not immediately returned Monday.
A preliminary hearing is slated for Dec. 3, and an arraignment is set for Dec. 5.
Kabir is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan. Santana was born in Mexico, while Deleon was born in the Philippines. Both are lawful, permanent U.S. residents. Gojali is a U.S. citizen.