Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said 69 children were removed from prostitution and 99 suspected pimps were arrested in 40 cities across 30 states and the District of Columbia. Authorities arrested 785 other adults on a variety state and local charges, Pack said.
All the children found in the last three days have been placed into protective custody or returned to their families.
The children were found during Operation Cross Country V, a three-day roundup targeting child traffickers and pimps. The largest group of child prostitutes, 24, was found in and around Seattle, according to the FBI.FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry said the children found ranged in age from 12 to 17. Authorities are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to confirm their identities.
Henry said child prostitutes are often recruited by loose-knit groups that seek out kids who may be involved in drugs or runaways looking for a "responsible adult" to help them.
"There are groups of people out there preying on naive kids who don't have a good sense of the way of the world," Henry said. "Sometimes there's a threat of force, threats of violence. A lot these kids operate out of a sense of fear."
Since 2003, when the FBI and the Justice Department launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative, about 1,250 child prostitutes have been located and removed from prostitution.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Zachary A. Chesser, who was arrested this summer and allegedly told FBI agents he had twice tried to travel to Somalia to join a terror group, was charged Monday in federal court in Virginia with one count of communicating threats and another count of soliciting crimes of violence, both related to his previous case. The new charges carry a total of 15 years in prison.
Chesser, 20, was charged in July with material support to terrorists, which carries a potential 15-year sentence. Chesser acknowledged to FBI agents that he wanted to travel to Somalia to join the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab, according to an FBI affidavit filed this summer.
Before Chesser's arrest this summer, he was best known for posting harshly worded online warnings to the creators of the animated TV show "South Park" that they risked death for mocking the prophet Muhammad.Chesser's wife, Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, was also charged Monday with one count of making a false statement, which carries a possible prison sentence of up to eight years. Her charge is related to her husband's case, but it was not clear how.
Chesser and Nzabanita, who is from Uganda, have an infant son whom Chesser tried to take with him on a flight from New York to Uganda this summer in order to appear less suspicious, the affidavit said. Chesser was denied entry to the flight and told he was on the no-fly list. He and his wife had previously tried to go to Somalia by way of Kenya, but that attempt also failed.
After his latest attempt to leave the country, Chesser apparently tried convincing FBI agents he had renounced his extremist views and said he would work for the FBI if the government helped him travel to Africa, according to the affidavit. Instead of accepting Chesser's offer, FBI agents arrested him.
Chesser has not yet been indicted in the case and the timeline for doing so has been extended twice. Lawyers often seek an extension of the indictment deadline to work out details of a plea bargain
An attorney for Chesser, Michael Nachmanoff, said in an e-mail that he could not comment further on the case. An attorney for Nzabanita, David Smith, did not immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment.
Friday, August 20, 2010
No one was arrested or "placed in handcuffs" in connection with a phone call threatening a hijacking of the flight in San Francisco, California, police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez said.
Earlier, a source familiar with the investigation said that two passengers were being questioned further by authorities.
The threat was called in before the plane departed from San Francisco.
Flight 24, bound for New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, was taken to a remote location, and passengers were interviewed and re-screened, while local law enforcement officers inspected the aircraft, TSA said.
Randy Cohen, a passenger on the flight, said the people on the plane were calm in general, but that as the time went by on the tarmac, some became nervous.
Even when the pilot made an announcement, "you could tell the angst in his voice and the uncertainty," Cohen said.
Cohen said he saw authorities remove a large garbage bag from an overhead bin in the back of the plane.
Once police arrived, the passengers were removed from the plane, six at a time.
Another passenger said they waited on the isolated plane for three hours after being diverted from the runway.
Lt. Bill Scott of the Alameda County, California, Police Department said his department became aware of the threat when a clerk at a local business called to report it.
The clerk had received a call that included a threat from "a suspicious male," Scott said. The police then called the FBI.
Scott said he could not comment on the specifics of the threat and whether it included a threat to hijack the plane said, "It was significant enough for us to notify the FBI."
A security official told CNN that the caller claimed the flight would be hijacked, but nothing has been found yet to back up that assertion.
Federal air marshals were aboard, according to a source familiar with the incident. The source did not know whether the marshals had to break cover because of the incident.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The FBI used sonar equipment this week to search the bottom of the James River for Jonathan S. Dorey, a Virginia Commonwealth University exchange student who disappeared more than four months ago, university officials said yesterday.
FBI officials conducted the search Wednesday near Rocketts Landing, in the same area where authorities discovered some of Dorey's belongings March 24 on the river's north bank, VCU spokesman Mike Porter said.
"VCU police consulted with the FBI, which provided additional resources to do a more complete search of the river bottom in the same area that was searched in the past," Porter wrote in an e-mail yesterday.VCU police continue to use all available resources in the hope of providing closure to the Dorey family," Porter wrote.
FBI spokeswoman Dee Rybiski said the bureau has been assisting VCU police with the search for Dorey all along. She declined to say how else the FBI has helped, noting that VCU police are heading the search.
Authorities still say they have no evidence of foul play.
VCU police have said that a witness reported seeing a man matching Dorey's description swimming in the river on the afternoon that he disappeared. His bicycle still is missing.
Friday, June 25, 2010
It is at first glance an all-too-familiar and tragic tale of witness intimidation and a demonstration of the collateral damage of Baltimore's epic drug war, but with a sardonic twist: The silence of one witness has thwarted efforts to make an arrest in the silencing of another.
Authorities say they caught Raine Zircon Curtis bragging on a cell phone to her imprisoned boyfriend: "Kareem got killed last night. They killed that boy while we was right there. … We was standing right there." Yet to a grand jury, she denied seeing anything, court documents say.
As a result, Guest's execution-style slaying in September 2009 on a walkway known as "the blacktop" in South Baltimore's Westport neighborhood has gone unsolved, and for FBI agents who protect their informants like one of their own, it has gone unavenged.
Authorities say that a defense attorney gave his client's mother a copy of Guest's statement, which was distributed in Westport and might have been the reason Guest was outed and killed.
Defense attorneys have argued that witnessing the killing of a witness might understandably make one hesitant to become a witness. But Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Purcell Jr. wrote in court documents that Curtis was not being obstinate out of fear and should be held in jail pending trial on a rarely used perjury charge.
"Outside the grand jury, the defendant has expressed pride in her refusal to cooperate with authorities," Purcell wrote. "The defendant's refusal is based on her disregard for Guest and his family, her obvious contempt for the justice system and her overarching loyalty to the code of the streets."
The prosecutor charged that Curtis "has expressed pride in not being a 'snitch,' " and considered the perjury charge "a joke."
Curtis' attorney, Joseph Murtha, has asked a federal judge to reconsider holding his client without bail until her trial, and a hearing has been scheduled July 9 in U.S. District Court. Murtha declined to comment on the case.
Guest, 31, was shot repeatedly in the head and chest on Sept. 20, 2009, at 10 p.m. He collapsed on Maisel Court, near where he had lived with his mother, and died 36 minutes later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
In one of those familiar bloody Baltimore weekends, he was one of 13 people shot over two days — one more name on a burgeoning list noting the violence but saying virtually nothing of the circumstances.
City police and the news media (though the City Paper profiled the case this month) initially dismissed Guest as a routine victim, a man on probation for drugs, leaving the impression that he was killed, like many others, in some sort of petty dispute over heroin.
The FBI knew better.
Guest, despite his personal battle with drugs, or perhaps to get favorable consideration on pending charges, sat down with FBI agents in January 2008 and provided enough information to fill nine typewritten pages describing the intricate life of slinging heroin called "Dynasty" on Westport streets.
The tips helped the FBI arrest eight people seven months later sporting nicknames like Playboy, Pooh, Marly Mar and Fingers. By May 2009, six had pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, including ringleader Jamal Stewart, who is serving a 22-year prison sentence.
Two others demanded trials, and federal prosecutors had to give Guest's statement to their defense attorneys as part of a process called discovery, to give attorneys a chance to prepare their cases and research potential witnesses. Just before the trial, in June 2009, those two men pleaded guilty as well.
That spared Guest from having to testify in public.
But it wouldn't spare him apparent retribution on the street.
"By then … the damage that led to the murder of Kareem Guest had already been done," federal prosecutors said in court papers.
Two defense lawyers had Guest's statement. The prosecutors wrote that one of the attorneys gave the documents to his jailed client and to his client's mother. It was done, prosecutor Purcell said in court documents, "without permission from the U.S. attorney's office and in direct violation of the discovery agreement put in place to prevent these very sorts of disclosures."
Purcell wrote that the documents were "distributed and displayed … throughout Westport" and that "several individuals confronted Guest" about what he had told the police. Guest was killed three months after his statement first started appearing on the streets.
Prosecutors don't specifically name the two attorneys who got the forms. But they said in court documents that they did not give them to the six attorneys whose clients had pleaded guilty by May 2009 because their cases ended before trial dates were set.
The documents were given to two attorneys whose clients held out until June, prosecutors said. Court records show those defendants as Larry Cheese, represented by attorney Michael Carithers, and Elliot Brown, represented by attorney David R. Solomon.
Carithers left his Baltimore law firm and could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers to his house and cell phone have been disconnected.
Solomon said in an interview that he reviewed Guest's statement with his client, which is permissible, but said that "under no circumstances did I give him any of the paperwork." Solomon also said he has talked with prosecutors and has been "cleared of any wrongdoing."
It is not clear whether distributing copies of the FBI statements is a crime or would be considered a breach of ethical conduct.
Federal prosecutors declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the Maryland U.S. attorney's office would not say whether defense attorneys are being investigated. The spokeswoman, Marcia Murphy, did say that no attorney has been charged in connection with the case.
Meanwhile, authorities are still trying to determine who killed their star witness.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wehelie said he was then told his name was on a no-fly list and he now cannot board a U.S. airline or enter American airspace.
U.S. authorities have put Americans studying in Yemen under heavy scrutiny after a number of failed terrorist attacks were linked back to Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the bureau does not comment on whether a particular person is on a watch list. While Bresson did not discuss the FBI's interest in Wehelie, he did note several recent high-profile terror plots, including an attempted car bombing and a failed Christmas Day jetliner bombing, as reminders of the need to remain vigilant.
Wehelie, however, said he had no dealings with the terrorist organization while in Yemen and does not even see himself as a particularly observant Muslim.
"It's amazing how the U.S. government can do something like this," he told The Associated Press Wednesday from his ramshackle hotel in downtown Cairo.
"I'm cool with all their fighting terrorism and all that, I'm cool with that, I like that, more power too them," he said in American accented English, wearing baggy basketball shorts and a long white T-shirt.
"My home is America and I don't know why I can't go back there," he said, adding that he even suggested to the FBI to "put me in like ConAir or something ... in an airplane with a bunch of U.S. marshals or whatever in handcuffs just get me back home."
Wehelie said the US embassy has not given him any indication of how he can get off the no-fly list, but for now is paying the $16 a night for his hotel and gives him coupons to eat at U.S. fast food chains.
In a news conference held in Washington by a Muslim civil rights group, his mother Shamsa Noor, said she sent her sons to Yemen to learn Arabic and get some direction in their lives and now she feels guilty for that decision.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the U.S. government in the press conference to allow him to return home.
An Egyptian security official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media confirmed that there is a Somali-American stranded in Cairo waiting for his name to be lifted from a no-fly list.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Air Force Col. Dave Cohen released few new details about Monday night's arrest at the base that houses the U.S. command center for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Cohen said it doesn't appear to have been a terrorism attempt. He did not release the serviceman's name, his military branch or the name of the woman who was with him. Both are in their mid-20s, Cohen said. The woman is not connected to the military.
Investigators were still trying to get to the bottom of the couple's motivation and intent, Cohen said.
"We've been talking to them since last night trying to get information, and we're still trying to put that puzzle together," he said.
The couple's Honda CRV contained three handguns, three rifles and some ammunition, Cohen said. He described them as "military style" but commercially available.
He said they tried to drive onto the base at about 5 p.m. at a remote gate and flashed phony military identification. A security officer working the gate became suspicious, and the couple cooperated when they were asked by officers to get out of the car.
When the weapons were found, a bomb disposal unit was called to examine the car, Cohen said. No explosives were found.
"At no point was the security of MacDill Air Force Base breached," he said. "The system worked exactly as it was supposed to."
Cohen said there was no indication yet that either the serviceman or his companion were connected to the Tampa base. Military and federal prosecutors are discussing charges, he said.
MacDill, situated on a peninsula south of downtown Tampa, is the home of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also houses the U.S. Special Operations Command that coordinates the activities of elite units from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.Last month, an FBI agent who was at the base on unrelated business fatally shot a Vietnam veteran after an altercation. The veteran had been staying at the family campground on the base. Officials said he came at the agent with a knife before he was killed.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The goal of the event, a repeat of an operation held in the fall, is to increase safety, prevent terrorism and “act as a method of deterrence,” Anderson said.
The checkpoints are coordinated by the Transportation Security Administration and include the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Norfolk and Virginia Beach police and Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson said. Police dogs also are being used to check vehicles.
The checkpoints began early this morning and will continue through the day, Anderson said.