Monday, October 31, 2011

FBI and Santa Rosa Police Department Seek Information Regarding the Robbery of the Garda Armored Car Service in Santa Rosa

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The FBI and Santa Rosa Police Department are seeking the public’s help in identifying the suspects responsible for the robbery of the Garda Armored Car Service in Santa Rosa, California.

On August 11, 2011, at approximately 10:45 p.m., Santa Rosa Police Officers were called to the Garda Armored Car Service at the 1600 block of Northpoint Parkway regarding an armed robbery. The robbery occurred as an armored car was arriving at the business.

The suspects, armed with an assault rifle and an automatic handgun, entered the business. Two victim employees were present at the time of the robbery and were disarmed, restrained, and forced to cooperate with the suspects while being held at gunpoint. The suspects then exited the building and ran from the location with an undisclosed amount of U.S. currency. Both victims were unharmed.

Witnesses described the first suspect as a Caucasian male, 5’10” to 6’0” tall, 180 to 190 lbs, with blue eyes, and the second suspect as a Hispanic male, 5’6” to 5’8” tall, 180 to 190 lbs, with long dark hair and a Hispanic accent. Both suspects were wearing dark clothing, black masks, and gloves.

The suspects should be considered armed and dangerous.

This investigation is being conducted jointly by the FBI’s San Francisco Division and the Santa Rosa Police Department. Anyone with information as to the identity or whereabouts of the suspects is urged to contact the FBI.

The FBI can be reached 24 hours a day at 415-553-7400. All calls are confidential.

Members of the media should call:

■FBI San Francisco – Public Affairs Specialist Julianne Sohn at 415-553-7450
Santa Rosa Police Department – Sergeant Steve Fraga at 707-543-3590

Nogales CBP Officers Seize more than $2 Million in Marijuana

Nogales, Ariz. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the Tucson Field Office, a component of the Customs and Border Protection’s Joint Field Command – Arizona, seized a significant load of marijuana at the Mariposa Port of Entry.

Officers screening travelers and vehicles coming into the country Tuesday selected a 2008 Bobtail truck entering through the passenger vehicle lanes for inspection. On the way to an inspection dock, the truck began showing mechanical problems, requiring officers to search for the cause of the vehicle’s problem before the truck could get to the inspection area. During the examination, officers discovered bundles of marijuana concealed in the truck’s cargo compartment. The narcotics, weighing more than 4,100 pounds and worth almost $2,074,000, were seized along with the vehicle. The driver, a 46-year-old male from Nogales, Sonora, was arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). ICE HSI special agents also detained a second person (who was not in the vehicle) in connection with the investigation.

Individuals arrested are charged with a criminal complaint, which raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

CBP's Office of Field Operations is the primary organization within Homeland Security tasked with an anti-terrorism mission at our nation’s ports. OFO officers screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the United States while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Their mission also includes carrying out border-related duties, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration and trade laws, and protecting the nation's food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds 780-Month Sentence for Solicited Hit on United States District Judge and Federal Prosecutor

PENSACOLA, FL—The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has upheld a 780-month sentence for Edmond H. Smith, IV, 45, of Mobile, Alabama, for his convictions on soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge William H. Steele and Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Greg Bordenkircher, both of Mobile, in retaliation for their roles in a March 2009 trial resulting in Smith’s conviction on a firearms-related charge. Prior to Smith’s sentencing in that case, he was recorded soliciting the murder of Judge Steele, AUSA Bordenkircher, a Mobile County deputy sheriff, Smith’s former business partner and newspaper reporter, Eddie Curran. Following his trial in January 2010, during which recordings of graphic descriptions by Smith of how he wanted the victims eliminated were played for the jury, Smith was sentenced to 780 months by Senior U.S. District Judge William H. Stafford, Jr., of the Northern District of Florida. Smith pledged over a million dollars worth of assets in payment for the solicited assassinations, including a Rolex watch, a used car, and the sword of legendary Pancho Villa.

On appeal, Smith challenged the reasonableness of his sentence and the admissibility of testimony from Judge Steele and AUSA Bordenkircher regarding security measures they took upon learning of Smith’s threats. A copy of the appellate court’s opinion may be reviewed at:

United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh of the Northern District of Florida had special praise for the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and for the work of Assistant United States Attorneys David L. Goldberg and Robert G. Davies, both of Pensacola, who represented the government at trial and on appeal. Federal prosecutors and a United States District Judge from outside Mobile were called upon to handle the case to avoid even an appearance of a conflict of interest, according to U.S. Attorney Marsh.

Six-Time Felon Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison for Crack, Marijuana Offenses

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A Cedar Rapids man who had previously been convicted of six felony offenses was sentenced on October 21, 2011, to 25 years in federal prison.

Sabranino Altranino Thompson, 35, from Cedar Rapids, was found guilty by a jury on June 21, 2011, of two counts of distributing crack cocaine, one count of possessing crack cocaine with intent to distribute, and one count of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute.

Court documents reflect Thompson was previously convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance on two occasions, attempted murder and armed robbery, unlawful sale of a controlled substance in the first degree, and unlawful sale of a controlled substance in the fifth degree.

Thompson was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge John A. Jarvey. Thompson was sentenced to 300 months’ imprisonment on the crack cocaine charges, and 120 months’ imprisonment on the marijuana charge. The prison terms were ordered to be served concurrent to one another. A special assessment of $400 was imposed. He must also serve an eight-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Lightfoot and Dan Chatham and investigated by the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. Court file information is available at The case file number is CR10-00093-JAJ.

VIDEO: Operation Ghost Stories - Inside the Russian Spy Case

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The arrests of 10 Russian spies last year provided a chilling reminder that espionage on U.S. soil did not disappear when the Cold War ended. The highly publicized case also offered a rare glimpse into the sensitive world of counterintelligence and the FBI’s efforts to safeguard the nation from those who would steal our vital secrets.

Our case against the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) operatives—dubbed Operation Ghost Stories—went on for more than a decade. Today we are releasing dozens of still images, surveillance video clips, and documents related to the investigation as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Although the SVR “illegals,” as they were called, never got their hands on any classified documents, their intent from the start was serious, well-funded by the SVR, and far-ranging.

“The Russian government spent significant funds and many years training and deploying these operatives,” said one of our counterintelligence agents who worked on the case. “No government does that without expecting a return on its investment.”

Our agents and analysts watched the deep-cover operatives as they established themselves in the U.S. (some by using stolen identities) and went about leading seemingly normal lives—getting married, buying homes, raising children, and assimilating into American society.

Using surveillance and sophisticated techniques, aided by support from intelligence analysts, investigators gathered information to understand the threat posed by the spies as well as their methods, or tradecraft.

The SVR was in it for the long haul. The illegals were content to wait decades to obtain their objective, which was to develop sources of information in U.S. policymaking circles.

Although they didn’t achieve that objective, the agent said, “without us there to stop them, given enough time they would have eventually become successful.”

After years of gathering intelligence and making sure we knew who all the players were, we arrested the illegals on June 27, 2010. Weeks later, they pled guilty in federal court to conspiring to serve as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the U.S.

The plea represented the culmination of a remarkable effort on the part of countless Bureau personnel, including agents, analysts, surveillance teams, linguists, and others.

“Operation Ghost Stories sends a message to foreign intelligence services that espionage threats to the U.S. will not be tolerated,” our agent said. “The FBI’s counterintelligence mission is to identify, disrupt, and defeat the activities of foreign espionage agents, and we take that job very seriously.”

Usually, the critical work of our Counterintelligence Division is carried out in conjunction with our partners in the U.S. intelligence community with the utmost secrecy. Because the public rarely hears about those efforts, it would be easy to forget how real the threat of espionage is.

“And the threat is not limited to the Russians,” the agent said. “There are a lot of foreign services who want what we have, and that’s why we have agents and analysts in FBI field offices across the country working with other intelligence community partners every day to address these threats.”

Spotting and Assessing
The deep-cover Russian spies may not have achieved their objective, but they were not idle. They collected information and transmitted it back to Russia, and they were actively engaged in what is known in the spy business as “spotting and assessing.”

They identified colleagues, friends, and others who might be vulnerable targets, and it is possible they were seeking to co-opt people they encountered in the academic environment who might one day hold positions of power and influence.

Perhaps the most famous example of this tactic—the Cambridge Five—took place in Great Britain. Soviet intelligence “talent spotters” were able to recruit Cambridge University students in the 1930s—including future spy Kim Philby—who would later rise to power in the British government and become Soviet operatives during World War II and into the 1950s.

“We believe the SVR illegals may well have hoped to do the same thing here,” said a counterintelligence agent.

Multi-agency probe deals death blow to 'billion dollar' drug ring

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PHOENIX - Federal, state and local authorities announced the results Monday of "Operation Pipeline Express," a 17-month multi-agency investigation responsible for dismantling a massive narcotics trafficking organization suspected of smuggling more than $33 million dollars' worth of drugs a month through Arizona's western desert.

At a news conference Monday, top-level representatives for the agencies overseeing the investigation, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, and the Arizona Attorney General's Office, laid out details of the case.

"Today we have dealt a significant blow to a Mexican criminal enterprise that has been responsible for poisoning our communities with the distribution of millions of dollars' worth of marijuana, cocaine and heroin," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. "I find it completely unacceptable that Arizona neighborhoods are treated as a trading floor for narcotics. This case is the result of an outstanding partnership between federal and county law enforcement authorities and the Arizona Attorney General's office, which will handle the prosecution. These partnerships are essential to making sure these criminals experience the full force of the justice system."

Officials say the ring, organized around cells based in the Arizona communities of Chandler, Stanfield and Maricopa, used backpackers and vehicles to move loads of marijuana and other drugs from the Arizona-Mexico border to a network of "stash" houses in the Phoenix area. After arriving in Phoenix, the contraband, which also included cocaine and heroin, was sold to distributors from multiple states nationwide.

Monday's announcement comes just four days after federal and local investigators executed the third in a succession of large-scale enforcement actions tied to the probe, taking another 22 defendants into custody. To date, 76 individuals have been criminally arrested in connection with "Operation Pipeline Express," ranging from organizational "bosses" to stash house guards and load drivers.

During last week's warranted searches, authorities seized more than two tons of marijuana, 19 weapons - including assault rifles, handguns, and shotguns - and nearly $200,000 in cash.

"Through our joint efforts, we've sent a resounding message to the Mexican cartels that Arizona is off limits to their operatives," said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge for HSI in Arizona. "As this case makes clear, law enforcement in Arizona is united in its resolve to protect our communities and our country from the scourge of large-scale narcotics trafficking. We stand ready to use every tool and resource at our disposal to attack and dismantle these organizations."

Prior to last week's takedown, authorities had conducted two other major enforcement actions in connection with "Operation Pipeline Express." Earlier this month, agents executed a dozen search warrants throughout central and southern Arizona, including in the communities of Casa Grande and Stanfield, taking custody of 17 primary case targets. In mid-September, the initial enforcement action in the investigation resulted in the arrest of six suspects on state drug and conspiracy charges.

"We in Arizona continue to stand and fight the Mexican drug cartels, who think they own the place," said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. "This is America and we shall bring a crushing hand of enforcement against those who threaten our families and our national security. While this is a historic drug bust, sadly this represents only a fraction of what my deputies face every day."

Intelligence gathered as part of "Operation Pipeline Express" indicates the organization is tied to Mexico's Sinaloan cartel and has been in existence for at least the last five years. During that timeframe, authorities conservatively estimate the ring has smuggled more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into to the United States, generating almost $2 billion in illicit proceeds.

Authorities believe the organization has produced such huge profits by gaining a virtual monopoly over the smuggling routes along an 80-mile section of Arizona's international border, from Yuma to just east of the community of Sells.

The probe that evolved into "Operation Pipeline Express" began in May 2010 following a traffic stop by Pinal County Sheriff's deputies in Stanfield. To date, the case has resulted in the seizure of more than 60,000 pounds of marijuana; in excess of 200 pounds of cocaine; approximately 160 pounds of heroin; more than $750,000 in cash; and nearly 110 weapons, including multiple assault rifles.

In addition to the three lead agencies, more than 20 federal, state and local law enforcement organizations provided support for this investigation. They include: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), both Border Patrol and CBP Air and Marine; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Attorney's Office; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Arizona Department of Public Safety; the sheriff's offices in Pima and Maricopa counties; and the police departments of Ak-Chin, Casa Grande, Chandler, Coolidge, El Mirage, Eloy, Florence, Gila River, Glendale, Goodyear, Marana, Maricopa, Phoenix, and Young Town.

At Monday's news conference, officials stressed the drug-trafficking investigation is ongoing and U.S.-based authorities are continuing to coordinate closely with their Mexican law enforcement counterparts, as well as with the HSI and DEA Attache offices in Mexico, to pursue additional leads and suspects. Much of the cost associated with the investigation is being funded by two federal anti-drug initiatives, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). Additionally, HSI's Arizona-based Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) played a central role in the case.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Multi-Ton Cocaine Seizure from Interdicted Drug Smuggling Vessel

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TAMPA, FL—United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces the recovery of an estimated 6,700 kilograms of cocaine from a submerged drug smuggling vessel in the Caribbean Sea. The vessel, a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel, or SPSS, was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) MOHAWK on September 30, 2011, in international waters of the Caribbean some 110 miles off of the coast of Honduras. The vessel sank during the interdiction, and USCGC MOHAWK detained the four crew members, who were later transferred to Tampa for prosecution.

Shortly after the interdiction, a multi-agency effort began to recover the suspected drug cargo of the sunken SPSS. This effort included the deployment of the FBI Laboratory’s Technical Dive Team, located in Quantico, Virginia, which conducted dive operations at the site of the submerged vessel from USCGC CYPRESS. These operations yielded evidence including packages of cocaine totaling an estimated 6,700 kilograms from the SPSS.

Today, this evidence arrived at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg aboard USCGC CYPRESS, where it will be transferred to the custody of investigators of the Panama Express Strike Force. The crew of the SPSS (Jorge Colomer, 47, of Honduras; Guilforth Romero, 24, of Honduras; Manuel Cuero, 30, of Colombia; and Marcos Salazar, 30, of Colombia) have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida for violation of the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act of 2008 and are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

A similar recovery operation earlier this year yielded over 6,000 kilograms of cocaine from an interdicted SPSS that also sank in the Caribbean. The crew of that vessel is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by OCDETF’s Panama Express Strike Force, comprised of agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and Joint Interagency Task Force South. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Austin Shutt.

FBI Searching for “Rub-a-Dub Robber”

A woman wearing a purple shower cap and pajamas robbed a teller at gunpoint this morning at the Lonestar Bank, located at 7630 Highway 6 in Houston, Texas. Members of the Houston FBI’s Bank Robbery Task Force need your help in locating her. She’s been dubbed the “Rub-a-Dub Robber” because of the unusual attire she wore during the robbery.

At approximately 10:00 a.m., the woman entered the bank, pulled out a black semi-automatic pistol, and pointed it at a teller. She told the teller to hurry up and asked her to put the money in a brown paper bag she carried with her inside the bank. The teller gave the woman some cash. No one was physically hurt during the robbery. The woman was seen leaving the area in a beige-colored, older model sedan.

The bank robber is described as a black female, about 25 years old, 5’8” tall, 160-170 pounds, with a medium to large build, and a medium to dark complexion. She wore a purple shower cap on her head and greenish-yellow pajamas pants with animal or child-like figures on them. She wore a dark colored shirt and a hoodie and carried a black semi-automatic pistol and a brown paper bag during the robbery.
Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and arrest of this robber, or any felony suspect. If you have information about this crime, please call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 713-222-TIPS (8477), or the Houston office of the FBI at 713-693-5000.

Two Pittsburgh Residents Sentenced on Racketeering Charges

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WASHINGTON – Two Pittsburgh residents were sentenced to prison this week on racketeering charges relating to their involvement with the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

James Pendleton, 30, aka “Jim Bob,” was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond to 112 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Pendleton pleaded guilty on June 30, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to engage in a racketeering enterprise.

Devon Shealey, 25, was sentenced on Oct. 25, 2011, by Judge Diamond to 57 months in prison.  This sentence will run concurrent to a 34-68 year prison sentence he is currently serving for related crimes.  Shealey pleaded guilty on Aug. 18, 2011, to one count of violence in the aid of racketeering.

According to the guilty pleas, Pendleton and Shealey were associates of the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips street gang, which participated in a pattern of racketeering activity that included multiple acts involving robberies at gun point; attempted murders; distribution of controlled substances, including cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine; and obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.

According to court documents, Pendleton was an associate of the Brighton Place Crips, a criminal street gang that controlled an area of Brighton Place and Morrison Street, also known as the Mad Cave, and Federal Street in the Northside area of Pittsburgh.  The Brighton Place Crips were formed in the early 1990s; in 2003, it formed an alliance with the Northview Heights/ Fineview Crips.  This alliance expanded the gang’s drug trafficking territory, and increased the number of gang members and associates available to preserve and protect the gang’s power, territory and profits through violence.

The Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips gang maintains exclusive control over drug trafficking in these neighborhoods through continuous violence and intimidation of rivals and witnesses.  Members of the gang support each other through payment of attorneys’ fees and bonds, as well as payments to jail commissary accounts and support payments to incarcerated members’ families. 

In addition, gang members had violent confrontations with members of the rival Manchester OG’s, and other street gangs operating in the Northside section of Pittsburgh.  Members and associates obtained greater authority and prestige within the enterprise based on their reputation for violence and their ability to obtain and sell a steady supply of illegal drugs.  According to court documents, the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips gang members identify themselves by wearing blue, flashing Crips gang hand signals, and using phrases such as “Cuz,” “C-Safe,” “Loc” and “G.K.” 

According to court documents, Pendleton was a “connect” for the gang, supplying members of the enterprise with cocaine and crack cocaine.

Pendleton and Shealey are two of 26 defendants charged in February 2010 with being members or associates of, and conducting racketeering activity through, the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips gang.  This prosecution resulted from a Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force investigation that began in 2005.  To date, all members of the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips who were charged in this indictment have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles A. Eberle and Troy Rivetti of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Kevin Rosenberg of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.  The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police; the Allegheny County, Penn., Police Department; and the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ATF Offers $5,000 Reward for Information on Evergreen Apartments Fire

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Kansas City Field Division, the Overland Park Police Department and the Overland Park Fire Department announced today that ATF is offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Aug. 8, 2011 fire at the Evergreen Apartments located 9209 W. 79th St. in Overland Park, Kan.

The fire destroyed six apartment units and caused approximately $750,000 in damage. However, no injuries were reported. The exact cause of the fire was undetermined but investigators are calling the fire suspicious in nature. The scene investigation was conducted by ATF, the Overland Park Fire Department and the Overland Park Police Department.

ATF dispatched a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) and additional special agents to the scene. CFIs are highly trained special agents, who provide technical support, analysis and assistance to its state and local partners in the areas of fire origin and cause determination and arson investigation.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by ATF, the Overland Park Fire Department and the Overland Park Police Department. Anyone with the information about the incident should call ATF at 1-888-ATF-FIRE or the Tips Hotline at 816-474-8477.

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. For more information about ATF, go to

CBP Receives Second Predator-B in Texas

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Washington— U.S. Customs and Border Protection today received a second Unmanned Aircraft System Predator-B at the Naval Air Security Operations Center in Corpus Christi, Texas—the first of two UAS’s funded through the FY 2010 Southwest Border Security Bill Supplemental. The UAS will provide critical aerial surveillance for U.S. Border Patrol agents stationed along the Texas-Mexico border.

The CBP UAS Program operates Predator-Bs from operation centers in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and Corpus Christi, Texas—missions from both centers allow CBP to deploy unmanned aircraft along the Southwest border from the eastern tip of California across the common Mexican land borders of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The UAS Operations Center in Corpus Christi supports counter-drug operations in the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, disaster relief and humanitarian support in the Gulf Coast region, and rapid deployment throughout the southern tier of the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere.

Since its inception, the CBP UAS program has flown more than 11,500 UAS hours supporting border security operations and disaster relief and emergency response, including various state governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These border security efforts have led to the seizure of approximately 46,600 pounds of illicit drugs and the detention of approximately 7,500 individuals suspected in engaging in illegal activity along the Southwest Border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Twenty-One Individuals Indicted on Drug, Money Laundering, and Firearms Charges

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GREENEVILLE, TN—An indictment charging 21 individuals with numerous drug and gun charges was unsealed on October 25, 2011, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis H. Inman, in U.S. District Court, Greeneville. The charges involved distribution and possession with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, distribution and possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, distribution and possession with the intent to distribute oxycodone, and conspiracy to launder money, within the Eastern District of Tennessee and elsewhere.

On September 13, 2011, a federal grand jury sitting in Greeneville, Tenn. indicted these 21 people on 45 separate counts including, a conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, cocaine, and oxycodone, a conspiracy to launder money, possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes, and other firearms violations. If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory term of 10 years in prison, a fine of $10,000,000.00, a term of supervised release of at least five years, and mandatory court assessments. In addition, three of the firearms charges carry a prison term of five years which, by federal law, is imposed consecutively to the sentence for the drug trafficking offense. The indictment is filed as a public record at the U.S. District Court, Greeneville.

Those charged in the indictment are: William McMahan, Jr., 35, of Newport, Tenn.; Buford Rogers, 65, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Lee Sharp, 56, of Sharps Chapel, Tenn.; Rodney Settles, 47, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn.; Audrey Jinks, 36, of Newport, Tenn.: Richard Black, 45, of Cosby, Tenn.; Joyce Roberts, 44, of Newport, Tenn.: Victor Loveday, Sr., 57, of Maryville, Tenn.; Danny Richardson, 28, of New Tazewell, Tenn.; Robbie Langford, 30,of Knoxville, Tenn.; Charles Parker, 35, of Powell, Tenn.; Dallas Parsley, 70, of East Bernstadt, Ky.; Billy Gibson, 45, of Newport, Tenn.; Jayson Cox, 35, of Maryville, Tenn.; Victor Loveday, Jr., 31, of Maryville, Tenn.; Monica Denton, 28, of Newport, Tenn.; Gary Bridges, 51, of Sharps Chapel, Tenn.; Terry Miller, 57, of Hartford, Tenn.; Melonie Montanaro, 25, of Newport, Tenn.; Brandon Miller, 25, of Newport, Tenn.; and, Rodney Tullock, 48, of Afton, Tenn.

As of today, all of the individuals named in the indictment are in custody. A trial date is expected to be set at a hearing in U.S. District Court on November 1, 2011.

The indictment is the result of a joint investigation between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Tennessee Fourth Judicial Drug Task Force, Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Morristown HIDTA office, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives also provided invaluable assistance during the course of the investigation.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FBI Offers up to $10,000 Reward in “Halloween Bandits” Bank Robbery

Today, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson is announcing a $10,000 reward offer in a Salt Lake City bank heist where the robbers wore Halloween masks, carried semi-automatic handguns, and got away with an undisclosed amount of cash. The case is under investigation by FBI special agents and police detectives with the Safe Streets Task Force.

Last year, a few days before Halloween, two masked gunmen walked into the U.S. Bank at 2243 East and 2100 South in Salt Lake City. Halloween masks completely covered their faces and both suspects wore baggy clothing. After entering the bank, one suspect approached the teller counter, pointed a handgun at the teller, and placed a blue or black handbag on the counter while demanding money. A second gunman paced back and forth inside the bank lobby, pointing a handgun at several customers and employees. He verbally threatened one bank employee. During the robbery, one of the suspects pushed an elderly customer causing that person to fall and sustain injuries. Both robbers made several violent threats to bank employees and customers as they left. They were last seen jumping a fence near the bank and possibly leaving the area in a grey Ford minivan. Witnesses described both bank robbers as adult males.

Additional Details
The robbery occurred on October 29, 2010, at approximately 1:00 p.m. The FBI reward offer is for up to $10,000 for new information that leads to the arrest and conviction of both bank robbers. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI Salt Lake City Division at (801) 579-1400. An FBI wanted poster with several surveillance pictures of the bank robbery is posted at

U.S. Border Patrol Weekly Blotter

Blaine, Wash. – The information listed below is from arrests and seizures related to U.S. Border Patrol in the Blaine Sector area of operations. For security reasons, this may not be a complete list of enforcement actions.

10/13/2011- Agents responded to an area east of Sumas following a citizen’s report of suspicious backpackers. Agents encountered three subjects, two Canadian citizens and one United States Citizen, who all admitted to illegally crossing into the United States from Canada the night before. The subjects claimed to have camped in the hills on the United States side of the border the night previously. The Canadian citizens were processed for removal, and the United States Citizen was released after his identity was verified.

10/13/2011- Agents apprehended a group of five citizens of India who entered into the United States illegally near the Markworth Road in Lynden, WA. All five subjects were processed for removal.

10/14/2011- Agents assisting the Swinomish Police Department near La Conner, WA. encountered two Mexican citizens. One subject possessed fraudulent identification documents and the other had a criminal history including child cruelty and two arrests for DUI. Both subjects admitted to being illegally present in the United States. The two subjects were processed for removal.

10/15/2011- Agents responded to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office request for assistance near Everson, WA. Agents apprehended a Mexican Citizen who admitted to being illegally present in the United States. The subject had a previous arrest for DUI. Subject was processed for removal.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Deputy Attorney General Joins U.S. Attorney, ATF and Local Officials to Announce Results of Summer Anti-Violence Initiative

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DENVER – Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the number two official with the Department of Justice, came to Denver today to participate in announcing the results of an initiative to combat violent crime throughout Metro Denver this past summer. Joining Cole for the announcement was U.S. Attorney John Walsh, ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates, Lakewood Police Chief Kevin Paletta, and Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman. These agencies came together to form a partnership to investigate gun crime and arrest armed gang members.

During the Spring of this year, gun crime in Metro Denver appeared to be on the rise, and with a long hot summer approaching, local, state and federal law enforcement, along with the U.S. Attorney, came together to develop a strategy to reduce gun violence. The results of this partnership are impressive. Eighty armed gang members or their associates were investigated, charged and arrested. Of the 80, 62 defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury, and 18 defendants were charged in state court.

During the course of the investigation, agents and officers seized over 120 firearms from gang members, including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, handguns, silencers, and destructive devices. They also seized over 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Many of the defendants caught during this anti-violence initiative claimed gang ties, including the Aryan Brotherhood, Bloods, Crips, Crenshaw Mafia Gangsters, East Side Oldies, Gallant Knight Insane, Sin City Disciples, Suerno 13, Sons of Silence, Vice Lords, and West Side Locos.

Agents and officers also seized drugs during the course of the summer anti-violence initiative, including cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and Ecstasy.

The summer anti-violence initiative is consistent with what Attorney General Eric Holder tasked U.S. Attorneys Offices to do; be proactive, identify violent crime hot spots, and develop law enforcement strategies to address the violence. That is exactly what was done here. Local law enforcement working together helped to prevent gang members from using city boundaries to escape punishment for their crimes.

The summer anti-violence initiative had two primary goals, prevent gun crime, and investigate gun violence, holding those responsible accountable. This strategy, specifically the partnership between federal and local law enforcement and district attorney’s office, removed violent felons from our streets.

“Consistent with the Department of Justice’s anti-violence initiative strategy, federal, state and local authorities formed a partnership, combined resources and initiated investigations into gang violence,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “Instead of sitting on the sidelines, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the ATF, in partnership with the Aurora, Denver and Lakewood Police Departments, and the local District Attorneys, stepped up, focusing on locations where violent gun crime was most likely to occur. ”

‘Thanks goes to the brave men and women who investigated these cases, spending long hot summer days, late nights and weekends to investigate armed gang members this past summer,’ said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. ‘Any time you remove gang members and their associates from the streets, and take away their guns, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our cities are much safer as a result.’

‘We know from experience that gun violence goes hand-in-hand with gangs and drugs,’ said Marvin Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Denver Field Division. ‘We will continue to fight violent crime by partnering in the investigation and prosecution of those who seek to reduce the quality of life in our communities. ATF will continue our great collaboration with the state, local and federal partners who are similarly dedicated to this mission.’

‘We believe the community is safer today thanks to the recent anti-gang violence initiative spearheaded by the ATF and the Aurora Police Department, with the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,’ Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said. ‘This initiative targets the worst violent offenders. The cooperation of all participating agencies makes available resources to arrest these offenders and hold them accountable.’

‘This is an impressive list when you consider the number of guns, defendants, and narcotics that were taken off the streets,’ said Kevin Paletta, the Lakewood Chief of Police. ‘There’s no telling what crimes were prevented through the efforts of these dedicated investigators. All we as law enforcement executives need to do is to provide them with the support they need to do their jobs and the results can be amazing, as we have seen.’

‘I am very pleased with the joint operation and its results,’ said Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman. ‘We work very well with our law enforcement partners and believe that through collaborations such as this one we serve the citizen’s of Denver better. These are dangerous individuals and getting them off the streets makes everyone safer.’

Those who have been convicted of federal felony firearm violations generally face not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.

There are still operations under way, so some details cannot yet be provided.

The anti-violence initiative is part of the department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program – a nationwide, gun-violence reduction initiative. Since its inception in 2001, the PSN program has granted nearly $2 billion in funding to hire new federal and state prosecutors; support investigators; provide training; distribute gun lock safety kits; deter juvenile gun crime; and develop and promote community outreach efforts as well as to support other gun and gang violence reduction strategies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tinton Falls Man Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter in Death of School Principal

TRENTON, NJ—Dennis Smentkowski, of Tinton Falls, N.J, admitted today to driving his car while impaired by the sleep medication Ambien, causing the death of Donald Merce in a head-on collision, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Smentkowski, 46, pleaded guilty today to a one-count indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter. Smentkowski entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Smentkowski was driving his Ford Explorer southbound on Oceanport Avenue near the East Gate of Fort Monmouth at 7 a.m. on May 6, 2008, when he drove across a double yellow line into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a vehicle driven by Merce, 58, who was on his way to his job as principal of the Markham Place School in Little Silver.

At the time of the collision with Merce’s vehicle, Smentkowski was impaired under the laws of New Jersey as a result of his being under the influence of the sleep aid drug Zolpidem, a Schedule IV controlled substance, commonly known as Ambien, which he had taken prior to getting into his car.

Smentkowski admitted he had ingested at least four 12.5 mg dosages of Ambien in the hour or so before the collision, four times the recommended dosage. Smentkowski admitted he consciously disregarded the substantial risk to the safety and the lives of others by operating a motor vehicle while his ability to drive was impaired by Ambien. He also admitted his actions caused the death of Donald Merce, who was killed instantly from the injuries he suffered during the collision.

As a part of Fort Monmouth at the time, the site of the collision falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. The facility has since closed.

The involuntary manslaughter count to which Smentkowski pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Smentkowski is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pisano on Jan. 24, 2012.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of FBI-Red Bank, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; the former Fort Monmouth Police, U.S. Department of Defense; and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Peter E. Warshaw Jr.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Frazer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Charles J. Uliano Esq., West Long Branch, N.J.

Hogsett Announces Indictment of Four Terre Haute Defendants in “Sons of Silence” Investigation

Charges are More Results in Ongoing U.S. Attorney’s Violent Crime Initiative

TERRE HAUTE—Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney, announced this afternoon the indictment of four additional individuals in United States District Court in Terre Haute for their alleged roles in the criminal operations of the Sons of Silence motorcycle gang.

 “Working together with our federal and local law enforcement partners, we have made it clear that there will be zero tolerance for those who peddle drugs and violence in our communities,” Hogsett said. “We are taking on criminal operations in Indiana with the full force of federal law, and we are dismantling them from top to bottom.”

The indicted individuals include:

■Phillip Mannebach, age 46, of Terre Haute
■Michael Pitts, age 50, of Terre Haute
■Dustin Coffey, age 24, of Terre Haute
■Travis Umphries, age 34, of Terre Haute

 The indictment alleges that beginning in the summer of 2010, Mannebach and Pitts were distributors of methamphetamine for James Taylor, a previously indicted member of the Indianapolis chapter of the Sons of Silence motorcycle club. Pitts, a convicted felon, also faces charges for illegally possessing a firearm.

 The indictment also charges Mannebach, Coffey, and Umphries with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence. The three are alleged to have conspired to abduct an individual for three days last November in an attempt to extort money to pay off debts associated with methamphetamine trafficking.

 This follows an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force in Indianapolis into the activities of the Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club. The Terre Haute Police Department and the Vigo County Prosecutor’s Office assisted the FBI with the investigation.

 In addition, in late August, eight other individuals associated with the Sons of Silence gang were indicted for a variety of charges, including methamphetamine trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses.

 “This investigation, along with law enforcement successes such as last week’s recordbreaking drug bust in Indianapolis, send a loud message across Indiana that I hope is heard far beyond our borders,” Hogsett noted. “If you bring your criminal organization into the Hoosier State, we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will punish you.”

 Assistant United States Attorney Brad Blackington, who will prosecute this case for the government, observed that the Sons of Silence investigation involves the first large-scale federal prosecution of individuals associated with a motorcycle gang since 2002, when members of the Diablos Motorcycle Club in Terre Haute were successfully prosecuted for methamphetamine trafficking offenses. If convicted, Mannebach and Pitts each face sentences of 10 years to life imprisonment. Coffey and Umphries face sentences of up to 20 years in federal prison if they are found guilty.

 An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Hashish stopped at Calexico East Port

CALEXICO, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Calexico East port of entry arrested a United States citizen after discovering 27 pounds of cocaine, seven pounds of hashish and six pounds of methamphetamine hidden in the vehicle he was driving. 

The incident occurred at about 7:45 a.m. on Oct. 24, when a CBP officer conducting inspections of vehicles and travelers entering the United States referred the driver, a 49-year-old man, for further examination.

The intensive examination on the red Dodge Ram pick-up truck that included a canine screening and use of X-ray equipment led officers to the discovery of 10 wrapped packages of cocaine co-mingled with five packages of methamphetamine and two packages of hashish. The narcotics were concealed inside a non-factory compartment in the interior rear wall of the pick-up truck. The combined street value of the narcotics is approximately $259,600.

The driver, a resident of Calexico, was turned over to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and transported to the Imperial County Jail where he currently awaits arraignment.

CBP seized both the vehicle and narcotics.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our Nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ACTT Partners Participate in 14-Day Vekol Valley Operation

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1st Iteration of Vekol Valley Ops for FY12

Tucson, Ariz. – From October 9 – 22, the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT), operating ongoing multi-agency enforcement activities in Arizona, conducted the first iteration of Vekol Valley Operations for Fiscal Year 2012.

The multi-agency operation, led by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of BLM’s Operation ROAM (Reclaim our Arizona Monuments), concentrated efforts in Vekol Valley. The other agencies participating in this operation were:

·         Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS)
·         United States Border Patrol – Tucson and Yuma Sectors
·         Customs and Border Protection Office of Air & Marine (OAM)
·         Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
·         ICE Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO)
·         United States Attorney’s Office
·         Pinal County Sheriff’s Office
·         Pinal County Attorney’s Office
·         Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – HIDTA Task Force
·         Eloy Police Department

Intelligence gathered and shared between the agencies led to:


·         63 Illegal Aliens
·         2 USC’s


·         4153.6 Marijuana (Pounds)
·         Methamphetamine (grams)


·         11 Seized
·         3 Recovered
·         5895 pounds of trash cleaned up and removed

The operation, which utilized Border Patrol detection equipment as well as air assets from CBP OAM, displayed unprecedented levels of cooperation, coordination and communication between agencies across Arizona to deny, degrade, disrupt and dismantle smuggling organizations. The Border Patrol is committed to working with Federal, State, Local and Tribal law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe.

“ACTT leverages the diversity of all the participating agencies and leads to a better outcome for everyone, most importantly the public. The coordination and partnership among the agencies helps to provide a safer and more secure environment for the public, employees and users of public lands; it also helps protect public land resources and values from the effects of smuggling. BLM’s success on our borderlands is dependent on our partnership in this alliance.”
Jon Young, Bureau of Land Management, State Chief Ranger - Arizona

CBP welcomes assistance from the community. Citizens can report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol by calling (877) 872-7435 toll free. All calls will be answered and remain anonymous.

CBP announced the JFC-AZ in February 2011 as an organizational realignment that brings together the Tucson and Yuma Border Patrol Sectors and their Air Branches, as well as the Tucson Field Office, under a unified command structure. JFC-AZ integrates CBP’s border security, commercial enforcement and trade facilitation missions to more effectively meet the unique challenges faced in Arizona. Follow us on Twitter @CBPArizona or visit the Arizona website for more information.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.