MIAMI (AP) — A South Florida man who described himself as a sympathizer of the Islamic State extremist group faces terrorism-related charges stemming from a purported plot to bomb a Miami-area shopping mall, according to court documents filed Monday.
Vicente Adolfo Solano, 53, appeared at a brief hearing Monday afternoon on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction at the Dolphin Mall west of Miami. Solano was arrested Friday after accepting a fake bomb provided by the FBI outside the mall, according to an FBI affidavit.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley said she will appoint a public defender to represent Solano, who is being held without bail. A bond hearing is set Thursday and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert said the government wants him kept behind bars until trial as a risk of flight and danger to the community.
Solano told the judge he works as a painter earning $13 an hour. No relatives appeared at the hearing. Court records show Solano has had only minor brushes with the law, most recently in 2014 and 2015 for driving with a suspended license. That document noted he had no prior felony record.
The FBI began investigating Solano in late September after a confidential informant tipped agents off about his plans, the affidavit said. Most of the subsequent conversations were recorded. Investigators also found three pro-Islamic State videos that Solano allegedly sent to the confidential informant.
"I am here because I like the way (Islamic State) confronts the United States and the countries of the coalition," Solano allegedly said in one video, wearing a black mask and shirt and standing in front of black flag. "The United States is the most terrorist country of all. I am going to plant a bomb ... that's how it's going to be done."
In a second video, Solano said he is a "sympathizer of the Islamic group, ISIS" using another acronym for the Islamic State.
It's not clear from the affidavit whether Solano had any links to any foreign terrorist groups. At one point, he told the confidential informant he had not discussed his plot with anyone else.
His plans started to come together in October when the confidential informant introduced Solano to an undercover FBI employee who could supposedly help build a bomb. Solano provided a sketch of the food court at the mall, which he thought would be most crowded, according to the FBI.
"It's easy because look ... I go in, I sit down, I leave it and goodbye. I leave it. I won't have a problem with that," Solano said in one conversation recorded by the FBI.
After buying screws and other materials to build the bomb, Solano met with the two undercover FBI men at a hotel to put it together. Then the three of them drove over to the mall, where "Solano took steps that he believed would arm the device and the timer to count down" on the fake bomb, the affidavit said.