Authorities say Lambesis was taken into custody at 2 p.m. Tuesday while shopping at a retail business in Oceanside. The 32-year-old was charged on three federal counts - one count of solicitation to commit murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit crime.
The investigation began Thursday when detectives received information that the singer had solicited someone to kill his estranged wife, who lives in nearby Encinitas, police said. Lambesis and his wife Meggan had adopted three children from Ethiopia, but they were going through a divorce, according to court records.
Detectives kept guard over Meggan Lambesis over the weekend and waited for the metal singer to return from Asia, where he had been on tour.
No further details were released on the investigation.
Lambesis is a founding member of As I Lay Dying, which was formed in San Diego in 2000. The band has released six albums, including 2007's "An Ocean Between Us," which reached No. 8 on Billboard's charts. The band was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008, and their last album, "Awakened," came out in September on Metal Blade Records.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.