Suspect Charged With Federal Hate Crime in Victoria Mosque Fire

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A suspect accused of starting the blaze that gutted a Victoria mosque in late January has been charged with a federal hate crime.

Federal court records filed on Thursday accuse Marq Vincent Perez of damaging the Victoria Islamic Center "because of the religious character of the property," along with one count of using fire to commit a federal felony and another charge for possession of an unregistered firearm.

Court records show Perez was arrested on March 4, about a month after officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined the fire was arson and offered a $30,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the people involved.

The January 28 blaze demolished the 16-year-old Islamic center, causing an estimated half-million dollars in damage and torching the center's financial and legal records. The timing of the fire raised suspicions it was motivated by Islamophobia (it came just one day after President Donald Trump tried to implement his failed travel ban to keep people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States).

According to court filings, the feds have also accused Perez of being involved in "a series of criminal vandalism incidents" that stretch from August 2016 to this past January, including his "attempt to set a car on fire" about two weeks before the mosque fire. Officials also allege he was involved in a burglary at the Islamic center six days before the setting the fire that consumed it.

Court records show that five days after his arrest, a judge ordered Perez be detained pending trial due to the "retaliatory nature" of the alleged crime and “his possession of loaded firearms out in the open in his home with an infant and a toddler living in the same home."

We'll update this story as more information becomes available.


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