RIVERSIDE - Four Inland Empire men suspected of conspiring to plot terrorist attacks against the U.S. overseas pleaded not guilty Wednesday during an arraignment in federal court.
It was the first time all four defendants appeared together in court to answer to a charge of providing material support to terrorists.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, 35 of Pomona - the suspected ringleader who prosecutors say recruited two of the defendants to embark on a holy war against the U.S. - faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. The other three defendants, Ralph Kenneth Deleon, 23, of Ontario, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, of Upland and Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, each face a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.
A federal grand jury indicted DeLeon, Vidriales and Gojali in November after their arrest in Chino Hills, and the trio pleaded not guilty during an initial arraignment on Dec. 5.
On the day of their arrest on Nov. 16, the three had planned to fly to Afghanistan to meet up with Kabir, who had been living in Kabul since July 24 and had been corresponding with the other defendants via social media, authorities said.
DeLeon, Gojali and Vidriales had planned to join the Taliban and al-Qaida and attack U.S. military bases and personnel, according to their indictment.
Kabir was subsequently detained by Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, then handed over to the FBI and brought back to the U.S.