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Archive for December, 2009

Charges Filed in Detroit in Attempted Plane Bombing; Authorities Say Device Contained Highly Explosive Chemical PETN

Eric Holder Jr. issued statement
Eric Holder Jr. issued statement

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal criminal complaint charging the Nigerian National with trying to blow up the Christmas day plane from Amsterdam to Detroit,  said the explosive device contained PETN or pentaerythritol, a highly explosive material.

The charging document filed in federal court in Detroit Saturday, charged Umar Farkouk Abdulmutallab with willful attempt to destroy an aircraft and willfully placing and causing to be placed a destructive device on the aircraft that was carrying 279 passengers and 11 crew members.

Abdulmutallab made his initial appearance on the charges at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where he was being treated at the burn center after the explosion, according to Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.  He was being detained and the next hearing date is scheduled for Jan. 8.

A pool report said he was wearing a green hospital gown at his court appearance and was wheeled into a first floor conference room in a wheel chair. He was handcuffed to the chair. (To read more on the pool report click here to the Detroit Free Press.)

An affidavit by FBI agent Theodore James Peissig on the plane incident stated that Abdulmutallab had returned to his seat after going to the bathroom for 20 minutes and said he had an upset stomach. The plane was on its final approach to Detroit.

He then “pulled a blanket over himself. Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor , and some observed Abdulmutallab’s pant leg and the wall of the airplane on fire,” the affidavit said.

“Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit went on to say that a flight attendant had asked Abdulmutallah what was in his pocket and he replied “explosive device.”

“A passenger stated that he observed Abdulmutallab holding what appeared to be a partially melted syringe, which was smoking,” the affidavit said. The passenger took the syringe from the suspect and “shook it to stop it from smoking, and threw it to the floor of the aircraft.”

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. issued a statement saying:  “This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times.

“Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. ”

Passenger Aboard Detroit Flight: “I Heard a Pop and Then the Next Thing You Know Fire”

Yes, more than 8 years after the infamous Sept. 11, 2001 attack, the friendly skies still have the potential to be pretty darn scary. Here’s a Detroit Free Press account of the incident as told by some passengers.

plane window2

BY NAOMI R. PATTON
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

DETROIT — Most of the passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 seated near seat 19A seemed to hear it. A single, loud pop — like a firecracker — 10 minutes before the flight landed.

“I HEARD THE POP AND then the next thing you know fire …people running out of their seats,” said Syed Jafry of Holland, Ohio, was one of the first passengers off the plane, seated a few rows in front of the suspect.

“It was a fire, it wasn’t just a firecracker, it was a fire,” Calvin Kakar, of New York, said. He was seated a few rows in front of the man, a Nigerian national, now in federal custody after trying to set off some sort of explosive device. “We heard a pop and the next thing you know it was a fire.”

One by one, the passengers deplaned Friday with similar and various bits of the story. By all accounts, the suspect was immediately tackled by at least one man, and several other passengers ran towards him immediately trying to put the fire out.

To read more click here.

White House Says Detroit Plane Incident a Terrorism Attempt

northwest-airlines1By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –Federal authorities were investigating an incident on Christmas day in which a Nigerian man tried to blow up  Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit by igniting a powdery substance during the plane’s  descent, according to media reports.

The New York Times reported that the White House said it believed the incident was  an act of terrorism. The Times reported that a spokeswoman for Delta, which now owns Northwest Airlines, said there was a commotion and some minor injuries and other media reports that the device failed to go off and the man was subdued by passengers.

ABC News reported that the suspect, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, told authorities that he was acting at the direction of al Qaeda.

An official was questioning the credibility of the statement, ABC reported.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Weekend Feature (Humor): How to Handle an Uncooperative Witness

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxAk3B_zS5k

Second Govt. Witness in ex-Cong. Jefferson Case Gets Major Sentence Reduction

William Jefferson

William Jefferson

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Brett Pfeffer, who ended up testifying this summer against his former boss, Rep. William Jefferson, is getting a major sentencing reduction for his cooperation.

As expected, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandra, Va., on Tuesday reduced ex-Congressional aide Brett Pfeffer’s sentence from 8 years to 3 years and 4 months, Bruce Alpert of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

The paper reported that the judge said Pfeffer’s cooperation with the government was substantial.

Pfeffer, 41,  a former aide to Jefferson, pleaded guilty in 2006 to bribing the Congressman. He then testified against Jefferson, who was convicted on 11 of 16 public corruption counts.

Another key government witness, Vernon Jackson, recently had his 7 year and 3 month sentence cut by about half for his cooperation in the case. Jackson had also pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson, who lost his bid for re-election last year.

Both Pfeffer and Jackson could be released next month.

Jefferson was sentenced in November to 13 years in prison. The Judge has allowed Jefferson to remain free pending his appeal.

To read more click here.

Merry Christmas From ticklethewire.com

christmas 2 merry

Criminals Who Alter Face and Fingerprints Don’t Always Have Luck

John Dillinger/fbi photo

John Dillinger/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOl News

WASHINGTON — Plastic surgery is not just for the vain at heart. Recent cases show that criminals still use flesh-altering procedures to try to dodge the law. But it doesn’t always help.

Just in the past two weeks, drug traffickers from Detroit and Phoenix whose fingerprints had been surgically altered in Mexico were both sentenced to life in prison. The Detroit dealer also underwent multiple surgeries to change his face.

Meanwhile, Eduardo Ravelo, a suspected drug trafficker and hit man indicted in Texas, remains on the loose after apparently having surgery to avoid capture, authorities say.

The practice is hardly new. In the 1930s, legendary bank robber John Dillinger had plastic surgery to alter his appearance. He also used acid to burn his fingerprints. But he was gunned down and killed by FBI agents on July 22, 1934, in Chicago.

ice photo

ice photo

But veteran Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley, who prosecuted the Detroit case, said the willingness to self-mutilate “shows a higher level of desperation.” Other authorities say it’s difficult to discern whether there’s been an uptick in the practice among high-level dope dealers simply based on the recent cluster of cases that have come to light.

In the Detroit case, 38-year-old Adarus Mazio Black was convicted of trafficking millions of dollars of cocaine. He used a number of aliases and obtained fake driver’s licenses in Michigan, Arizona and California. Then, authorities say, after he paid someone to knock off a federal informant in 2005, he underwent nine surgeries for his face. He also had his fingerprints altered.

“He had his fingerprints surgically removed, which the doctor said is a form of skin graft, which is very painful,” Buckley said. “He could have had the skin taken from his buttocks, but that would have alerted authorities.

“He took his toe prints and put them on the tips of his fingers,” the prosecutor said, explaining that Black wanted his fingers to look as natural as possible and have fingerprint ridges. “It’s a very painful process, and it takes a long time to heal.”

Buckley said the surgeon, a doctor from Nogales, Mexico, a town bordering Arizona, performed the surgery and testified in court in Detroit. The same doctor was sentenced last year in Pennsylvania to 18 months in prison for altering a drug dealer’s fingerprint. He was charged with hindering efforts to apprehend the drug dealer..

The prosecutor said DEA investigators did have difficulty identifying Black through fingerprints. But he said all the surgery didn’t help.

“It wasn’t effective for him,” Buckley said. ” DEA developed so much evidence against him” that they were able to nail him. Black was sentenced to life on Dec. 14.

A fingerprint specialist for the DEA in San Diego, who worked on the recent Phoenix case, said surgeons have to cut deep into the layers of the skin to obliterate the fingerprints. If not, the same distinct fingerprint ridges can regenerate and resurface. He spoke on the condition his name not be used.

In that case, evidence in trial in June showed that 62-year-old William Wallace Keegan of Palm Harbor, Fla., had all 10 fingers surgically altered in 1993 in Mexico to obliterate his fingerprints above the first joint, according to the DEA.

The DEA fingerprint specialist said the fingerprints were cut “and pretty messed up” and difficult to read. Normally, that would have been the end of the story, since in most cases authorities just take fingerprints of the first digit of the finger.

But, the fingerprint specialist said, by “happenstance the lower joints (of the fingers) happened to be on both (fingerprint) cards.” That allowed him to match the prints of Keegan, who used the alias of Richard Alan King. Keegan received five life sentences for trafficking on Dec. 10.

The FBI is still looking for Eduardo Ravelo, who was added to the agency’s Top 10 Most Wanted List in October. Ravelo is suspected of working as a hit man for the Juarez drug cartel in Mexico. He is believed to have altered his face and fingers, according to FBI agent Andrea Simmons of the El Paso office.

She said authorities don’t know for sure, but they base their suspicions on “source information”.

Obviously, altering fingerprints won’t guarantee criminals a free pass. But it can help sometimes, authorities admit.

For example, if a wanted drug dealer gets picked up for a minor offense and is fingerprinted at a police station, he may walk free hours later because the prints don’t match the ones in the database. “It’s probably going to walk them out of the first casual law enforcement encounter,” one veteran DEA agent said.

But in the end, some like the Detroit drug dealer get caught anyway, and they end up being disfigured for life from the surgery.

Said prosecutor Buckley: “He ended up with what they call drumsticks finger; his fingers were curled up and he was unable to extend them.”

Pres. Obama Nominates 7 U.S. Attorneys; Senate Confirms 7 Others

D.C. nominee Ronald Machen
D.C. nominee Ronald Machen

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The burden of filling U.S. Attorney posts around the country just got a little lighter.

The White House announced Thursday that President Obama had nominated seven U.S. Attorneys  including Ron Machen for D.C. and Sally Quillian Yates for the Northern District of Georgia.

And the U.S. Senate, according to the website Main Justice,  confirmed 7 previous nominees for U.S. Attorney posts including: Richard Callahan (Eastern District of Missouri): Sanford Coats (Western District of Oklahoma): Michael Cotter (Montana): Christopher Crofts (Wyoming): Barbara McQuade (Eastern District of Michigan): James Santelle (Eastern District of Wisconsin); Mary Elizabeth Phillips (Western District of Missouri):

The following are the names and bios of the U.S. Attorneys who were just nominated, according to the following White House press release:

André Birotte, Jr.: Nominee for the Central District of California

André Birotte, Jr. works for the Los Angeles Police Commission, where he has been Inspector General since 2003 and served as an Assistant Inspector General from 2001 to 2003. From 1995 to 1999, Birotte served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California. He started his legal career as a Deputy Public Defender in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office from 1991 to 1995. Birotte graduated from Tufts University in 1987 and Pepperdine University School of Law 1991.

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