A Miami man suspected of being inspired by Islamic extremists was arrested Friday night on a charge of attempting to blow up a bomb at the Dolphin Mall by FBI counter-terrorism agents in an undercover operation.
Vicente Solano, who acted alone, was communicating with a confidential informant who tipped off the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force about his alleged plot to carry out a weapons of mass destruction attack on the sprawling mall in Sweetwater, according to authorities.
Before the planned bombing attack, Solano made pro-Islamic State videos, authorities said. But there is no indication he was directed by ISIS terrorists.
When he was arrested, Solano planned to detonate the WMD, which was a sham bomb that he acquired from FBI undercover agents — a strategy deployed in previous counter-terrorism probes in South Florida.
Solano will have his first appearance in Miami federal court on Monday, when a criminal complaint and affidavit will be filed that charge him with attempting to blow up a WMD.
The FBI’s undercover operations have become textbook procedures in the post-9/11 era. Agents rely on confidential informants to bring them suspicious information, so they can engage a suspect plotting to use a WMD and thwart the plan before it happens. Informants routinely work with undercover agents while recording conversations with the suspect.
In recent years, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has obtained convictions against Harlem Suarez, a Key West man who plotted to blow up a bomb on a public beach while supporting a foreign terrorist organization, and James Medina, a Hollywood man who tried to bomb a synagogue in Aventura. Suarez, 25, was sentenced to life in prison. Medina, 41, faces a 25-year prison term at his sentencing in November.