Victoria man charged with hate crime in burning of mosque

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The congregation of the Victoria Islamic Center in Texas was destroyed over the weekend in a fire. Then an act of kindness revived their spirits -- the leaders of the local Jewish congregation gave them the keys to their synagogue so they could continue to worship. The mosque has also raised over $1 million in donations from around the globe.

VICTORIA, Texas – A federal grand jury in Victoria has returned a three-count superseding indictment against Marq Vincent Perez, 25, for allegedly burning the Victoria Islamic Center on Jan. 28.

Perez was previously indicted for possession of an unregistered destructive device for an incident that occurred on Jan. 15. The superseding indictment returned Thursday now charges him with a hate crime – damage to a religious property as well as use of a fire to commit a federal felony in relation to the arson at the mosque.

Read:  Victoria mosque will rise from the ashes, thanks to GoFundMe

Perez was initially arrested and charged March 3 in connection with an attempt to blow up a car with a destructive device. At a detention hearing held the following week, the court heard evidence linking Perez to a Jan. 22 burglary of the Victoria Islamic Center as well as a Jan. 28 burglary and arson of the same mosque. Perez is in custody pending further criminal proceedings.

If convicted, Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the hate crime. He also faces up to 10 years for possessing an unregistered destructive device. If convicted of use of a fire to commit a felony, the penalty is a consecutive and mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. All of the counts also carry a potential $250,00 penalty.

ATF and FBI conducted the investigation, along with the City of Victoria Fire Marshal’s Office, Victoria Fire Department, Victoria Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety – Criminal Investigations Division and Texas Rangers with assistance of Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office and sheriff’s offices in Victoria and Nueces Counties.

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