Was Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen Inspired by This Bank-Robbing Ex-Marine?

He was the Blind Sheikh’s personal bodyguard, son of prominent Brooklyn citizens, from a strong military family. Authorities say he also radicalized and inspired men like Omar Mateen.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

The one Islamist who has been identified by a senior law enforcement source as a radicalizing influence on mass murderer Omar Mateen is presently at liberty despite having been convicted of murders of his own— along with shooting three police officers and wounding a fourth with a pipe bomb, as well as numerous robberies of banks and post offices, possession of explosives, and hostage taking.

He is now known as Abu Taubah, but his legal name remains the one used in a Nov. 5, 2012 government memo that summarized his criminal history:

“The defendant, MARCUS DWAYNE ROBERTSON, has been an extremist for many years. In the early 1990s, the defendant was a leader of the ‘Forty Thieves,’ which was a group of Muslims who conducted numerous armed robberies of Government installations and banks to generate funds that were used, among other things, to buy weapons and explosives. As part of his crimes, the defendant 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. Following the first Gulf War, the Forty Thieves stockpiled weapons and explosives in preparation to fight against the perceived threat of internment of Muslims by the United States. The defendant served as personal protection for the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, and personally gave over $300,000 of the stolen funds to mosques that the defendant attended.”

As he was subject not to Sharia, but to the American criminal justice system, Robertson managed to secure what one former FBI agent termed “the deal of the century.” The memo continues:

“The defendant was arrested in 1991, testified for the prosecution, and served 4 years in prison.”

Court papers filed by his attorney in 2015 report that Robertson is the son of two of Brooklyn’s more prominent and respected citizens:

“Robertson was born in the late 1960s to Clarence and Mable Robertson. Both of his parents were educators and community leaders holding positions in government their entire careers. His father is retired from the Brooklyn, New York District Attorney’s Office. He recently (April 18, 2015) was honored with the Outstanding Citizen Award by Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College where he had previously served as Vice-President. His mother, Mable Robertson, retired as the long-time Principal of P.S. 399, also in Brooklyn.”

The papers describe an idyllic home life in Brooklyn with siblings as eminently respectable as the parents:

“Robertson grew up in a home where education and dedication to the community was strongly encouraged. [Marcus Dwayne] Robertson, and all three of his siblings have served in the Armed Forces. His oldest brother, Alonzo, served in Army intelligence, the CIA, and then spent fifteen (15) years in the NSA. His brother, Malcolm, and his spouse both served in Iraq. Finally his youngest brother, Martin, was in the military police with the Army.”

Marcus Dwayne Robertson had become a Muslim at 12, but he still seemed on much the same path as his siblings in 1989.

“After high school, I joined the United States Marines,” he recounted while testifying on his own behalf in a 2011 weapons and tax fraud case that came two decades after the deal of the century.

He went on, “When I got out of basic training, I became a member of what they called at that time special ops, special operations capable or command. It was Second Force Reconnaissance Company. It was a response to the Iran hostage thing. So we did extremist hostage rescue or counter-terrorism.”

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He served in Japan and Okinawa before transferring over to the Marine Reserves and returning to New York.

“When I came back to New York, I started working security, that type of thing,” he recounted to the court. “But that’s when I got into a life of crime. I was arrested in 1991.”

He had been indicted as a leading figure in the Forty Thieves by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn as well as the Brooklyn District Attorney, where his father worked. He was further charged by authorities in Pennsylvania.

One can only imagine the great distress of his parents and siblings. Their manifest respectability may have made the government more amenable to offer him a deal.

“I began cooperating with the government in 1991, and I pled,” he reported in his 2012 testimony. “I thought it would be beneficial. I pled guilty to zero to life in 1991… And I didn’t know what the sentence was going to be.”

Robertson’s security work included acting as a bodyguard for Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind radical sheikh who had come to America in 1990. Robertson must have become all the more valuable an informant after the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Rahman was later convicted of plotting to bomb various New York City landmarks, including the Lincoln Tunnel.

“I helped against different terrorist organizations that were in the communities at that time,” Robertson further testified on his own behalf in 2012. “The tunnel bombing, a number of those types of situations at that time.”

The government expressed its gratitude when he was finally sentenced in 1994.

“Time served, pretty much,” Roberson recalled. “Four years, the time served.”

His home was torched and the U.S. Marshals were tipped that he was in danger. He and his wife were enrolled in the Witness Protection Program and settled in Kansas with a new identity.

“I became a teacher at the I.S.K.C., Islamic School of Kansas City,” Robertson testified. “Islamic law and Arabic sciences.”

He had risen to dean after four years. He also became the Muslim chaplain at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth.

“Through that, I met this other individual and we got married,” he recalled.

Now with two wives, he moved to Oklahoma for a time, then traveled to Senegal and on to Mauritania to further pursue his Islamic studies. He continued on to Egypt, with both wives as well as the children he now had with each.

“And we were all overseas in Egypt,” he recounted. He continued his Islamic education there. “The institute for memorization of Quran,” he said.

He also worked in the research department of “a major Islamic book publisher.”

“They published books in English, and I Americanized those books,” he said. “That was part of what I did there… The other time, I was working with the government.”

He further specified, “The secret police there.”

In a civil suit he would bring against the government in 2012, Robertson says that he attended a meeting of Egyptian and American intelligence officials. He further says that he was recruited “to perform covert operations in places the American government had no credible operatives.”

“Plaintiff worked as a covert operator for the FBI Terrorist Task Force from 2004 until 2007, performing operations in the United Sates and internationally with and against suspected and known terrorist organizations,” Robertson says in court papers.

Robertson remained in touch with American law enforcement and intelligence officials when he moved back to the United States, according to court papers filed by his attorney, “served as a confidential source in domestic terrorism investigations from Atlanta to Los Angeles.”

His day job during his two years in Los Angeles was with City Hall. “I worked for the mayor’s office with a group called Unity II, and I was doing gang intervention,” he recounted. “I was the case manager for the Bloods in Los Angeles.”

He elaborated, “I would collect the murders and the shootings and see if they were gang-related, and work with the gang team for the police departments there, and I would also help the young people. I would go to the different junior high schools and high schools and talk to them about getting out of the gangs and find ways for them to get jobs and talk to people, job owners, and prepare them to take job interviews.”

He may have fallen afoul of his handlers, for he returned to New York, finding himself homeless in his hometown, briefly living in a shelter. He testified that he then used his own job skills and landed one with a company called D.F. King. “It’s a brokerage, a Wall Street firm,” he explained.

He worked there for roughly 18 months before founding a company of his own.

“FIKS… Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary,” he said. “It’s an online Islamic college and we also show up in person and teach.”

He added, “I was the teacher. I taught classes and I ran the summer school for the children… In New York, you have a lot of children that come from war-torn countries and are like—we call them ‘mutants.’ So we take them on trips throughout New York City and make them feel good about being Muslim and show them other Muslims who are working within the society to show that they can—that they fit, too.”

He testified that he came to have a following “throughout the Muslim world.”

“We started—we put online our videos and then people asked for websites. So we made a website,” he said. “Then people started inviting me to give lectures in different countries and we had approximately a following in about 23 different countries.”

Sometime around 2009, a Florida businessman whom Robertson identifies as Tony Osias called him and suggested he move FIKS to Orlando. Robertson agreed on the condition the man supply him with two houses.

“Because of my two wives,” Robertson later explained in court.

The move was all the more appealing because he now also had 15 children.

“You know, New York is cramped,” he noted.

He settled with the family in Florida. He testified that his daily routine included a morning martial arts workout with world kickboxing champion Michael Bell.

“I’ve been doing martial arts since I was, like, 8 years old,” he testified. “So I wanted the opportunity to train with him. So I found him and I would get up in the morning time, because he accepted me, and I would train with him for about an hour.”

In late 2010, Robertson was joined in Orlando by a young man named Jonathan Jimenez, whom he had been mentoring back in Brooklyn.

“Mr. Jimenez, I’ve known him since 9/11,” Robertson testified.

“Since 2001?” his lawyer asked.

“I say 9/11,” Robertson said “I forget the exact year… Since the event on September 11th. He was approximately about 15 years old.”

Robertson continued, “He resided in both garages of my homes… Since I have more than one wife, I would go from one home to the other every day.”

One problem with polygamy in the United States arises when it comes time to file a tax return. The IRS was not about to accept as dependent two wives and their respective children. Robertson told the Florida businessman who brought him down there that he needed a tax preparer who was flexible, but not of a particular ethnicity.

“This may sound funny, ‘I don’t like to work with black people,’” Robertson later testified. “Because there’s always some type of scam going on sometimes and I want the work done professionally.”

Never mind that Robertson is black. The businessman said that he himself was a tax preparer and prepare he allegedly did. A number of Robertson’s children became Jimenez’s dependents.

Federal investigators say that Robertson’s mentoring of Jimenez had come to include another kind of preparation, this for terror training in Mauritania. Electronic eavesdropping recorded Jimenez telling an informant how Robertson had tutored him in various ways of killing and of Robertson wishing aloud that a huge tornado would wipe out America.

“May it destroy the land of the disbelievers,” he says in one recording.

The former Marine and brother of soldiers speaks of the importance of killing American service members.

“It’s obligatory… if you see them and you can kill them and get way with it,” Robertson said to Jimenez, according to court papers.

In 2012, Robertson and his protégé were arrested on terrorism and tax fraud charges. Robertson was remanded and spent his time awaiting trial behind bars preparing a handwritten lawsuit charging the government with “defamation of the defendant’s character” for calling him a terrorist when, he claimed, he had only been doing its bidding. The case was dismissed.

In the criminal proceedings, Jimenez pleaded guilty to lying to a federal agent in connection with a case of international terrorism. He was sentenced to 10 years.

A search of one of Robertson’s homes had produced a .45 caliber pistol and he also faced weapons charges as he went to trial. He waived a jury and took the stand, recounting a tale that left the judge in no doubt that he was guilty of tax fraud and the illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

But Robertson somehow managed to convince the judge to set aside the terrorism charge. Robertson was sentenced to four years, the same penalty he ended up receiving back in 1991 for a crime that should have earned him the maximum of a zero to life term. He again was freed after what was essentially time served.

One thing that did not come up in court is that the followers of FIKS came to include Omar Mateen and that Robertson’s teachings were what a senior law enforcement source describes as virulently homophobic.

As the innocents who died at the scene still lay inside the Pulse nightclub, FBI agents took Robertson in for questioning. He was soon after released because there was no legal reason to hold him.

At last report, he was again at liberty.