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Can the Government Stop a Terrorist’s Family from Collecting Life Insurance Benefits?

June 30, 2016

Terrorism Life Insurance
In the aftermath of the shooting in San Bernardino on December 2nd, 2015, it was revealed that the shooter Syed Rizwan Farook had a life insurance policy that’s worth more than $250,000. Farook took out two life insurance policies in the years leading up to the attacks, one for $25,000 in 2012 and one for $250,000 in 2013. Under the policies’ terms, the money would go to Farook’s mother Rafia Farook, but the Federal Government insists the money from the two policies should go to the families of the victims instead.

According to US law, the government can take control of any amount of money that is “derived from a crime of terrorism against the United States, its citizens or residents, or their property.” The authorities estimate that Farook, along with his friend Enrique Marquez Jr., had been planning a terrorist attack since 2011, several years before Farook took out either life insurance policy. Marquez Jr. is currently awaiting trial next year for allegedly providing material support for known terrorists, lying about rifle purchases, marriage fraud and for lying on his visa application.

The Federal Government is determined to make sure that the proceeds from Farook’s life insurance policies don’t end up in the hands of his beneficiary. U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker released a statement that made her intentions resoundingly clear. “My office intends to explore every legal option available to us to ensure these funds are made available to the victims of this horrific crime. We will continue to use every tool available to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks.”

If the government fails to seize Farook’s life insurance benefits, it could send a message to future terrorists that such acts of violence can lead to massive payouts for their families and loved ones. While it’s not clear how the funds will be distributed if the government takes control of the policies’ funds, the families of the 14 victims, as well as the 22 people injured in the attacks, could each get a share of the benefits. The U.S. Attorney’s office filed a civil asset forfeiture lawsuit at the end of May. A federal judge must approve the lawsuit before the government can take control of the funds.