A Muslim extremist who once led a murderous New York gang dubbed “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and then resurfaced decades later as a radical imam at a Florida mosque is begging for help funding his legal defense against charges he committed tax fraud to, according to authorities, finance terror training for his followers.
“The United States believes that the defendant is still an extremist, just as he was in the early 1990s.”
- Federal prosecutors
Marcus Dwayne Robertson, 46, a former U.S. Marine known to his supporters at his Orlando-based Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary as “Abu Taubah,” is currently being held in a local jail on a gun conviction. He faces sentencing on April 30 on a 2014 conviction of tax fraud, but more serious charges could be coming, given that prosecutors say he used the money to send his radicalized followers to Africa to learn how to kill Americans.
“The United States believes that the defendant is still an extremist, just as he was in the early 1990s,” prosecutors said in recent court filings. “The only differences are that the defendant is now focused on training others to commit violent acts as opposed to committing them himself and the violent acts are to occur overseas instead of inside the United States.”
Robertson, according to recent Facebook posts, will continue to proclaim his innocence to all remaining allegations against him.
“The Prosecution is attempting to characterize me as a ‘Teacher of Terrorists.’ … They are attempting to twist my statements to fit into a terrorist plot. …. In reality, they know I am not a terrorist teacher,” Robertson wrote on his web site.
In his younger life as the leader of the “Forty Thieves” gang, Robertson “murdered several individuals; participated in assassination attempts; used pipe bombs, C-4, grenades, other explosives, and automatic weapons; participated in a robbery resulting in a hostage situation; and attempted the murder of police officers,” according to federal prosecutors.
Court records and wiretap transcripts from 2011 to 2015 provide a gripping tale of Robertson’s life, and that of one student, Jonathan Paul Jimenez, who Robertson allegedly instructed to file false tax returns to obtain a tax refund to pay for travel to Mauritania, Northwest Africa, for study and violent jihadist training.
The tax fraud case led to the prosecution of Jimenez, who reportedly knew Robertson for 11 years and, by his own admission, trained with the imam for a year in preparation for his travel to Mauritania, where he would study and learn to kill U.S. military personnel.
Robertson denies sending Jimenez overseas "to commit violent jihad,” but prosecutors produced several wiretapped conversations from 2011 that they say prove Robertson trained Jimenez “in killing, suicide bombing, and identifying and murdering United States military personnel.”
According to court records:
• Jimenez stated he and Robertson discussed suicide bombings. Robertson told Jimenez if one could "go to a place where there’s seven top generals, it would be permissible to use a suicide bomb to kill them.”
• Jimenez said Robertson wanted him to “fight to kill” and taught him it is obligatory to kill military officers, specifically generals, because they “can lead an army.” He said Robertson had instructed him on how to kill people “in a good manner” and how to “do it with kindness.”
• Jimenez said he was “getting ready for that grave, baby,” and Robertson was preparing to make him a “killer” after he completed the religious aspects of his training.
FBI investigators said Robertson’s computers held documents from the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, such as “How to think like a terrorist” and the “Militant Ideology Atlas,” American military reports on interrogation, polygraphs, psychological operations; survival kits issued to Army aviators and a diagram of names connected to Global jihad.
Jimenez pleaded guilty August 28, 2012, to making a false statement to a federal agency in a matter involving international terrorism and conspiring to defraud the IRS, and was sentenced April 18, 2013, to 10 years in federal prison.
Bill Warner, a private investigator in Sarasota, Fla., and anti-Mulsim extremist activist, has been tracking Robertson since 2009. He claims that in addition to the most recent crimes, Robertson has “links to Al Qaeda going back to at least 1993 in New York City” and also previously was associated with Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheik” whose Muslim extremist group is blamed for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Rahman, convicted of seditious conspiracy with nine others, is serving a life sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
In early 1991, Robertson joined with other former Muslim security guards to form a robbery gang they called the ‘Forty Thieves’ with Robertson as the leader known as "Ali Baba." They robbed more than 10 banks, private homes and post offices at gun point, shot three police officers, and attacked one cop after he was injured by a homemade pipe bomb, Warner said.
Government records confirm Warner’s allegations and add that Robertson personally gave more than $300,000 of stolen funds to mosques he attended. After he was arrested in 1991, Robertson cut a deal with prosecutors, and served just four years in prison while his cronies remain behind bars to this day.
Robertson faced more jail time after he was arrested in August, 2011, for illegally possessing a firearm and was sent to the John E. Polk Correctional Facility, in Seminole County, Fla., where he is still being held.
Just after pleading guilty to the firearms conviction in Jan. 2012, federal authorities charged him in March, 2012, with conspiring to defraud the IRS.
Robertson, who said he’s lived in New York, Florida, California, Japan, Mauritania in Africa and Egypt, claims he is a professor who has lectured at universities around the world, including American universities.
Videos of his lectures show him preaching against gays, “devil worshipers,” non-Muslims and such American pop culture icons as cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, who he says is “gay.”
Robertson claims to have served in the elite counter-terrorism unit Joint Special Operations Command before leaving the military as a conscientious objector. A spokeswoman for the National Archives confirmed his service from May 16, 1986 to May 1994, in the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company as a field radio operator, but records indicate he was released from active duty in March 1990, discharged in the rank of corporal. Records show he was trained in radio telegraph, scuba diving, marksmanship, parachuting, terrorism counteraction, surveillance, infantry patrolling and finance.
While Robertson is jailed in Orlando, classes at his Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary are on hold, but through friends and one of his wives, he continues to publish pleas for help.
On Wednesday, a wife named Umm Taubah, thanked supporters, but announced their fundraising efforts were hurt when, on March 24, their GOFundMe account was taken down because “administrators claimed we violated the rules by soliciting funds for a suspected terrorist.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office and attorneys for Robertson were contacted for comment, but none would comment.
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman