Three teenagers and a 20-year-old man have been charged with plotting to attack a New York Muslim community with explosives.
The Rochester-area residents are accused of plotting to attack the small Muslim community, according to court papers.
At the time of their arrests, the men had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three home-made explosives, Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said at a press conference.
“I don’t know that there was a specific date. They had a plan in place,” Phelan said.
Charged with weapons possession and conspiracy were 20-year-old Brian Colaneri, 18-year-old Andrew Crysel and 19-year-old Vincent Vetromile. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece was charged as an adolescent offender.
It was a lunchroom comment by the student during school Friday that launched the investigation.
School security and Greece police interviewed both students and others and eventually “uncovered … a plot to attack an Islamic community in Delaware County, known as Islamberg,” Phelan said.
Police also searched five locations and seized 23 weapons and numerous electronic devices, including phones and computers. Most of the weapons were rifles and shotguns, some of which were legally owned by relatives of the suspects, authorities said.
Three improvised explosive devices wrapped in duct tape were found at the 16-year-old’s house.
“They were homemade bombs with various items – black powder, BBs, nails, inside a container,” Phelan said.
The rural community in Delaware County is operated by The Muslims of America, which runs 21 others in North America. It was settled by followers of Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarik Gilani. The mostly African-American settlers first came to the area in the 1980s to escape crime and crowding in New York City.
Police and analysts have dismissed accusations that the 60-acre community is a terrorist training ground, but the claims have persisted for decades.
In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted on federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down Islamberg’s mosque in 2015. Robert Doggart, now 67, is serving time in federal prison.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal charges in addition to the state charges.
“Anyone accused of plotting an act of violence targeting a religious minority should face state and federal hate crime and civil rights charges commensurate with the seriousness of their alleged actions,” CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement.