Authorities: Man held on device charge set Texas mosque fire

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HOUSTON (AP) — A 25-year-old man arrested for possessing a destructive device is responsible for a January fire that destroyed a South Texas mosque but he hasn't been charged with the blaze, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Marq Vincent Perez, of Victoria, appeared before a federal judge Thursday in Corpus Christi where prosecutors presented evidence tying him to the Jan. 28 blaze at the Victoria Islamic Center, about 125 miles southwest of Houston, Justice Department spokeswoman Angela Dodge said.

She said he was arrested March 3 for possessing "multiple commercially available pyrotechnic devices that were taped together" and used on Jan. 15 when he tried to set a car on fire.

The charge is not related to the mosque fire.

"However, at the detention hearing today, we presented evidence that he was involved in that incident," Dodge said. "According to the information presented in court, he allegedly burglarized the mosque on Jan. 22 and then again on Jan. 28, at which time he also set it on fire."

The fire subsequently was ruled an arson and federal investigators had said there was no immediate evidence the blaze was a hate crime. No one was hurt in the fire.

In her order denying bond for Perez after Thursday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington cited "testimony of his involvement in a hate crime presently being investigated."

Perez's lawyer, Mark Di Carlo, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times the charge already filed against his client was related to "five large firecrackers that were taped together on to one fuse." The attorney said that while allegations about the mosque fire were disclosed at the hearing, Perez has not been charged in that case.

Court documents show that exhibits presented at the hearing included photos from Perez's home of a shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, a knife, body armor and "xtreme fireworks."

Ellington's order indicated an infant and toddler also were living in Perez's home but did not specify their relationship to him. The revolver was found on a highchair.

The federal criminal complaint accused him of possessing an incendiary device that should have been registered in a federal database known as the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

"His possession and use of an unregistered destructive device ... and his possession of loaded firearms out in the open in his home with an infant and a toddler living at the same home demonstrate that he represents a serious danger to the community," the judge said.

The order also indicated Perez had no previous criminal history.

The fire occurred hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. That order was later blocked by the federal courts.

A GoFundMe campaign that set a goal of raising $850,000 to rebuild the mosque was closed after topping $1.1 million.

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