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Train Engineer Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Charge for Intentionally Derailing Locomotive Over COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory

Moreno stated that he thought that the Mercy was suspicious and did not believe "the ship is what they say it’s for."

A train engineer at the Port of Los Angeles pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for running a locomotive at full speed off the end of railroad tracks near a United States Navy hospital ship that was deployed to provide medical relief during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eduardo Moreno, 45, of San Pedro, pleaded guilty to one count of committing a terrorist attack and other violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems.

According to his plea agreement, on March 31, 2020, Moreno drove a train at high speed, did not slow down near the end of the railroad track, and intentionally derailed the train off the tracks near the United States Naval Ship Mercy – a hospital ship then docked in the Port of Los Angeles.

No one was injured in the incident, and the Mercy was not harmed or damaged, according to court documents. The incident resulted in the train leaking a substantial amount of fuel, which required clean up by fire and other hazardous materials personnel.

Moreno admitted in his plea agreement that he caused approximately $700,000 in damages because of the derailment.

In his first interview with the Los Angeles Port Police, Moreno acknowledged that he “did it,” saying that he was suspicious of the Mercy and believed it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in this case. Moreno stated that he acted alone and had not pre-planned the attempted attack. While admitting to intentionally derailing and crashing the train, he said he knew it would bring media attention and “people could see for themselves,” referring to the Mercy, according to the affidavit.

In a second interview with FBI agents, Moreno stated that “he did it out of the desire to ‘wake people up,’” according to the affidavit. “Moreno stated that he thought that the Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for.’”

United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez has scheduled a March 11, 2022 sentencing hearing, at which time Moreno will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port of Los Angeles Police investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Reema M. El-Amamy and Christine M. Ro of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section and Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case.

Read more at the Justice Department

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