Shooter Syed Farook’s brother and his neighbor – who is accused of buying guns used in the massacre – are married to Russian sisters Mariya and Tatiana Chernykh can be revealed to have strong links to Israel with their parents owning a home there Tatiyana married Syed Raheel Farook, shooter’s brother after brief marriage to man whose family say it was ‘mistake’ Mariya has two ‘anchor babies’ with her Hispanic boyfriend, a petty criminal – but she married Enrique Marquez between having them His immigration status is unclear but her visa is set to be revoked – although with two US citizen children, she can fight deportation Raheel Farook and his wife have been visited by police over claims of domestic violence – most recently just before the terrorist murders
THEY CAME IN SEARCH OF THE AMERICAN DREAM BUT NINE YEARS AFTER TATIANA CHERNYKH ARRIVED, SHE AND SISTER MARIYA HAVE INSTEAD FOUND THEMSELVES AT THE HEART OF A NIGHTMARE.
The pair are at the center of a complex web of personal relationships, with Tatiana married to Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan, 28.
Mariya, meanwhile, is in what the FBI say is a sham marriage with Farook’s friend and accomplice Enrique Marquez, 24, but lives with her boyfriend Oscar Romero, 33, in Ontario, California.
So how did a pair of Russian sisters with close ties to Israel end up at the heart of the worst terrorist atrocity in the US since 9/11?
Daily Mail Online can now disclose the full story of the Chernykh sisters and their journey from a tiny Jewish village in remote south-western Russia to their role in the California massacre earlier this month.
Family: The Chernykh sisters Mariya (second from left) and Tatiana (right) are caught up in the aftermath of the massacre. Tatiana is married to Syeed Raheel Farook, brother of the gunman. While Mariya is in what the FBI says is a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez, the gunman’s neighbor who is accused of supplying the guns. Mariya’s real partner is Oscar Romero, a petty criminal (left). The sisters’ parents Valentina (center) and Anatoly (second from right) are from a strongly-Jewish Russian village and have a home in Israel
‘Sham’ husband: Mariya’s marriage to Enrique Marquez – ISIS-follower Farook’s neighbor – is alleged to be fake. He has been charged with terror offenses and appeared in court (left) in Riverside, CA, earlier this week
Real relationship: Mariya Chernykh has two children – both born on US soil – with Oscar Romero. His immigration or citizenship status is unknown. One was born before and the other after her marriage to Marquez
Other sister: Tatiana Chernykh with her husband Syed Raheel Farook. His brother and sister-in-law carried out the San Bernardino massacre
Born to Anatole, 53, and Valentina, 51, in the 950-strong village of Vysokiy, the two appear to have been model students with Tatiana, now 31, achieving a silver medal for her achievements at school.
It is unknown if the family is itself Jewish and friends and neighbors were reticent on the subject when approached by Daily Mail Online in Voronezh.
Although both Chernykh parents are now thought to live in Beit Shemesh, a mid-sized city of 94,000 people in Israel, their eldest daughter chose to come to the US in the third year of her studies at Voronezh Pedagogical University.
She told her parents that she was taking part in a student exchange program although that claim has been disputed by one of her professors.
‘We did have a student called Tatiana Chernykh,’ said Lyudmila Solodovchenko, deputy head of the English language department.
She was expelled for academic failures. And she was definitely not sent to America by us as part of a student exchange program.’
Nevertheless, what is certain is that by 2006, Tatiana was in the US – leaving her parents and sister Mariya, now 25, behind in Russia.
On arrival, she met and married 46-year-old Peter Gigliotti, briefly moving in with him at his Richmond, Virginia home before relocating to California.
Gigliotti, a drifter who has moved from dead end job to dead end job and worked in a pizza restaurant while in Richmond, now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Remote: The Chernykhs are from a village beside Voronezh. The village is heavily Jewish and the sisters’ parents have a home in Israel
Mass murderers in the family: The Israeli-resident Chernykhs find themselves caught up in the tangle of relationships surrounding Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook. Ironically, at least one of their daughters stayed in the US under false pretenses – but Malik came in legitimately
Social media kept out of Tashfeen Malik’s background checks…
His sister Maria, 50, lives in a ramshackle home in Beaverton and, when approached by Daily Mail Online last week, insisted her brother, who has been living nearby since September, was guilty only of an error.
He was unavailable for comment, and she would not address the question of whether the marriage was a sham or not.
‘It happened many years ago,’ she said of the relationship. ‘It was a huge mistake.’
Meanwhile Tatiana, by now divorced, had moved to Corona, California where she met and married Syed Raheel Farook,
Like younger brother Syed Rizwan, Farook spent much of his early life in Chicago, Illinois, before moving to California with parents Rafia, 62, and Syed Sr., 66, in 1993.
He served in the US Navy between 2003 and 2007 – earning among other awards, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal – before meeting Tatiana, a beautician, and moving into a modest home in Corona with his wife.
The home, which is a short drive from the Redlands property where Syed Rizwan and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, plotted the December 2 massacre, is shared with their infant daughter and Raheel’s father Syed Sr.
She also set up a beauty salon in the garage, with friend Kristen Lowe, 29, telling Daily Mail Online that the room had been painted pink.
Big happy family: Maria Chernykh with her boyfriend Oscar Romero and her sister Tatiana. Tatiana came to the US in 2006, Mariya arriving three years later.
Enjoying America: Tatiana Chernykh (second from right) with her sister Mariya (left) and their parents in the shop where Tatiana worked
American life: Mariya Chernykh and Oscar Romero share this home in Ontario, CA. Despite the Stars and Stripes it appears she was in a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez, who purchased guns for the San Bernardino shooters
‘It looked like a little salon in there for someone to do hair,’ said Lowe, adding: ‘I thought they were just a normal family.’
Tatiana’s social media pages, now deleted, paint a portrait of a happy family life with the two seen posing together with their daughter and relaxing at the beach.
But neighbors have offered up a very different picture of the couple’s life together and say the police are regular visitors to the house.
The most recent visit, said 47-year-old Shery Medina, came on the Saturday prior to the San Bernardino shooting.
She also told Daily Mail Online that the visit was far from being an isolated occurrence and pointed to another two incidents earlier this year.
‘There have been at least three incidents since January with the cops,’ she said. ‘Domestic violence. They argue. I’m like, ‘oh God the cops are there again’.
‘I saw them [the police] on the Saturday night [before the killings]. They were here and parked up the road. They never park right in front of the house. They sit further up the road and walk down.
‘When they [Tatiana and Raheel] have issues, you see the cops show up.’
She added: ‘I see him [Raheel] most days. He leaves with his shoulder strap briefcase. She doesn’t leave too much but he does. He leaves at 5am every day. He comes home at 6:30 every time.
‘He goes into the house and then he doesn’t come out too much. They don’t come out a lot. They don’t do much.’
Further inquiries revealed that although police attended the home and Tatiana spent the following Monday being interviewed at the Corona police department, cops declined to press charges due to insufficient evidence.
Anchor babies: Maria Chernykh and Oscar Romero have two daughters together, Evita born in 2012 and Inay, who was born this past year.
All smiles: Oscar Romero’s speeds away in a parking lot in Ontario, California on December 19, 2015. Romero is the boyfriend of Mariya Chernykh, who was previously in a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez, the man who purchased two guns for the San Bernardino shooters
Going to the chapel: Tatiana Chernykh married Syed Raheel Farook on August 14, 2011. Syed Raheel is brother to Syed Rizwan Farook – who opened fire along with his wife Tashfeen Malik on December 2 killing 14
Honeymooners: Tatiana Chernykh with her husband Syed Raheel Farook. Farook served in the US Navy between 2003 and 2007 earning among other awards, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Meda, before meeting Tatiana
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For all Tatiana’s domestic troubles, recent years have brought her an extra source of support in the shape of her sister Mariya who arrived in the US in 2009.
Initially just intending to visit, she soon got a job selling mobile phone cases and found herself a boyfriend in the shape of 5’7” Romero, with whom she has a daughter.
Hoping to cement her immigration status, in November 2014, she married 24-year-old Enrique Marquez in a sham wedding and, until recently, paid him $200-a-month for the privilege.
‘It’s easy to check that Enrique Marquez is not her real husband. Mariya’s social networks show that her husband is called Romero, and they have a daughter,’ a source told Russian channel NTV.
They added: ‘The black market price on bogus marriages meant that Mariya needed to pay several thousand dollars to arrange the deal.
‘How could she know that her kind relatives that helped her cover the costs would turn into religious fanatics?’
Marquez, a childhood friend of Farook’s, converted to Islam in 2007 and checked himself into a mental health facility in Long Beach, California immediately after the shooting.
He has since been extracted from the facility and charged with plotting terror attacks, as well as purchasing the AR-15 assault rifles used to massacre 14 people innocently enjoying an office Christmas party.
Marquez is also thought to have helped Farook formulate plans for an attack in 2012 which would have seen the pair target the SR-91 highway from Riverside to Long Beach with pipe bombs and automatic weapons.
Photos obtained exclusively by Daily Mail Online show that the former security guard appeared outwardly normal, posing with a pestle and mortar and showing off his new fluorescent yellow bike helmet on social media.
However, sources say that the 24-year-old, who told the FBI he was radicalized by hate preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was also a loner who was often reluctant to engage in conversation.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, neighbor Lorena Aguirre said: ‘He’s very shy but he would wave to me,’ she said. ‘He would smile but I would have to initiate conversation. He didn’t make small talk.’
He and Farook became a familiar sight on Tomlinson Avenue in Riverside, where both spent their teenage years and where the Marquez family still lives, and, according to Aguirre, bonded over their mutual love of cars.
‘He [Marquez] didn’t socialize much with the kids nearby. The only person I ever saw him with was Syed but I never spoke to them when they were together.
‘Syed was obsessive about cars,’ she continued. ‘He would be there tinkering with cars all the time and sometimes Enrique would be with him.’
Marquez, who has no previous criminal record, was also described as a ‘nerd’ and a ‘weirdo’ by others who knew him, while more still emphasized that he ‘liked to keep himself to himself’.
His relationship with Mariya appears to have been distant, although the pair exchanged text messages concerning a meeting with immigration in the run-up to the attack.
The two had been scheduled to meet with customs and immigration officials the day after the San Bernardino attacks but were declared a ‘no-show’ and Mariya’s visa has since been revoked.
The existence of the messages was revealed in court documents filed ahead of Marquez’ initial appearance on a panoply of charges, among them providing material support for terrorism and immigration fraud.
Attempting to soothe Marquez’ fears in the run-up to the meeting, Mariya wrote: ‘Omg!! [sic] Enrique I’m the one freaking out here!!! Relax I’ll see u [sic] Monday and we’ll talk.’
She also tells him: ‘[i]f they decline me its [sic] my problem not yours.’
Yesterday, Marquez was denied bail on the grounds that he is ‘a danger to the community’ – even though his family offered to put up $100,000 equity on their home in exchange for his release.
Highly armed: Weapons confiscated from the San Bernardino attack. Enrique Marquez, a friend and former neighbor of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, supplied guns to the married couple who killed 14 people at a holiday party
Survivor describes the scene inside San Bernardino massacre
Mariya, who lives in a cul-de-sac in Ontario, a small town close to Los Angeles, with Romero, has not been seen since the shooting and could not be reached for comment.
Romero, who has remained at the couple’s home, also declined to speak when approached by Daily Mail Online on Saturday and asked about Mariya’s $200-a-month sham marriage to Marquez.
The 33-year-old, who became aggressive after being approached, possesses a criminal record featuring multiple counts of DUI, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Although Romero’s immigration status is unclear, Mariyah faces having her visa revoked, although with a child who is an American citizen – so-called ‘anchor babies’ – she will be able to fight any attempt to remove her.
Tatiana has also proved similarly elusive since the shooting, making a brief appearance with her husband outside her sister-in-law Saira’s home with the rest of the family in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Since then, she and father-in-law Syed Sr. have remained out of sight, while husband Raheel was seen visiting Farook and Malik’s Redlands home on Saturday to collect his mother Rafia’s possessions.
Despite her close connections to terror, friends in Russia remain unwilling to countenance the prospect that the woman they knew could have had anything to do with the shooting.
‘There is no way that she [Tatiana] could have converted to Islam,’ Lyudmila Gridneva who once taught the Chernykh sisters history at the village school, told NTV.
‘Her parents live in Israel, and as you know relations between Arabs and Jews are…’
When informed that Tatiana had married a Muslim, she said: ‘So what? He must be a secular person.’
A distant relative of the sisters and director of the local school, Zoya Gridneva, said: ‘If they were married to friends of the terrorists, it has nothing to with them, does it?’
‘They were never fanatics of any religion.’