Feds to play undercover recording in trial for Jacksonville mosque shooting plot

Bernandino Bolatete and his attorney at bond hearing at U.S. District Court (Sketch by Steve Bridges)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Federal prosecutors plan to play a recording made by an undercover agent during a trial for a man facing federal charges in connection with what authorities say was a plot to carry out a mass shooting at a Jacksonville mosque.

Bernandino Bolatete, 69, has pleaded not guilty to knowingly receiving and possessing a silencer not registered to him. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said the undercover agent who "sold" Bolatete the silencer was wearing a wire that recorded their conversation.

They plan to introduce that recording at trial. They said that on the recording, the agent tells Bolatete before the arrest a fictional story about a dispute he was having with a Muslim customer. Bolatete told the agent that if he sold him the silencer, he could use it to kill the Muslim customer. 

Prosecutors said they also plan to show text messages from Bolatete at trial that discuss the "hit."

Bolatete is being held without bond while he awaits trial. The judge found he poses “an extreme risk to the community” based on his own statements and possession of multiple firearms.

Investigators seized a stockpile of 11 guns and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition when they raided his home in the city’s East Arlington neighborhood, prosecutors said. 

He was arrested Dec. 1 after police said he skirted federal gun laws to buy a suppressor for $100. In reality, the man selling the gun was an undercover detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The detective said he met Bolatete at his place of work, where he spoke of buying a silencer off the black market. He later indicated he had plans to shoot up the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.