Suspect in alleged Aventura terror plot planned to strike on Yom Kippur, FBI says

James Medina accused of plotting to blow up Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor , Glenna Milberg - Reporter

AVENTURA, Fla. - A man accused of plotting a terror attack at a Jewish community center in South Florida planned to strike on Yom Kippur, although he confused it with Passover, according to a federal criminal complaint obtained Monday by Local 10 News.

James Medina, 40, of Hollywood, was arrested Friday and charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

A judge appointed a public defender for Medina during his first federal court appearance Monday.

According to the U.S. criminal complaint, the FBI began investigating Medina in March after he told a confidential informant that he planned to attack a synagogue.

During the course of several conversations with the confidential informant, Medina said he planned to strike the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, FBI Special Agent David Clancy said in the criminal complaint.

Medina "confirmed his desire to conduct the attack using AK-47 assault rifles," the complaint said.

After the confidential informant suggested that the attack could look as though it was orchestrated by the Islamic State terrorist group, Medina liked the idea, saying, "Yeah, we can print up or something and make it look like it's ISIS here in America," the complaint said.

"Medina felt the news of this attack conducted in this manner would go nationwide and inspire other Muslims to attack as well," Clancy wrote.

Medina explained his anti-Semitic views, believing that "Jewish people are the ones causing the world's wars and conflicts," Clancy said of Medina.

The FBI said Medina conducted surveillance of the Jewish center and developed an escape route to be used after the attack.

During the planning of the attack, the confidential informant expressed concerns about being shot during the attack and instead proposed planting a bomb, the complaint said.

"I'm up for it. I really am," Medina said, according to the complaint. "I wanna get away with it."

Medina and the confidential informant discussed the different ways that a bomb could be planted at the center, but Medina just wanted to be sure that it caused harm, Clancy said.

"I wanna see damage to happen to their ass," Medina said, according to the complaint.

The plan, as it is outlined in the complaint, involved the confidential informant dropping off Medina at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, where he would plant the explosive device near the door and then detonate it with a cellphone from a nearby location.

Medina wanted to witness the explosion from a nearby car, the complaint said.

"I'll have the windows down," Medina said, according to the complaint.

The FBI said Medina and the confidential informant had an April 20 meeting with an undercover FBI agent posing as an explosives expert, who asked Medina why he wanted to attack the center.

"It's my call of duty," Medina said, explaining that it was all "for a good cause for Allah," according to the complaint.

Medina again said he was thinking of doing it on Yom Kippur and wanted to blame it on "ISIS in America," the complaint said.

When the undercover agent pressed Medina about his willingness to go through with such an attack that would involve killing innocent people, Medina said he would be at peace with Allah and was "fine with killing women and children," the complaint said.

Medina was arrested Friday after meeting with the undercover agent and taking possession of what he believed to be the explosive device, the FBI said.

The center's rabbi, Jonathan Berkun, and executive director, Elliot Karp, released a joint statement early Monday morning saying that the synagogue and school "were never at risk at any time during the investigation."

Jimmy Han, Medina's ex-brother-in-law, said he was "kind of not surprised" about the alleged plot.

"He's threatened to shoot up a church before," Han told Local 10 News.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said in a statement Monday that she was "grateful" to the FBI for apprehending the suspect before he could do any harm.

Medina faces life in prison if convicted.

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