New Jersey resident pleads guilty for plotting to assassinate Pope Francis

CAMDEN, N.J. – A New Jersey resident today admitted attempting to provide material support to terrorists, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord announced.

Santos Colon Jr., 17, of Lindenwold, New Jersey, pleaded guilty as an adult before U.S District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to an information charging him with one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Colon admitted that from June 30, 2015, to Aug. 14, 2015, he plotted to assassinate Pope Francis during the papal visit to Philadelphia in September 2015. The plot involved utilizing a sniper to shoot the Pope during his Papal mass and setting off explosive devices in the surrounding areas.

Colon engaged someone he believed would be the sniper, but in reality was an undercover FBI employee. Colon engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source and instructed the source to purchase materials to make explosive devices.

FBI agents arrested Colon in 2015.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick and Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord credited special agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster in Philadelphia, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The count to which Colon pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. No date has been set for sentencing.

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