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March 2012


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for March, 2012

DEA Extends Ban on “Fake Pot” Products

By Allan Lengel

The DEA is continuing to go after “fake pot.”

The agency announced earlier this week on its website that it was extending by six months a ban on five chemicals used to make fake pot, which have been sold at retail outlets and head shops.

The ban, under the DEA’s emergency scheduling authority, makes it illegal to possess or or sell the products.

The initial temporary ban began a year ago. The DEA is moving toward making the ban permanent.

“We continue to address the problems of synthetic drug manufacturing, trafficking, and abuse. Our efforts have clearly shown that these chemicals present an imminent threat to public safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a statement. “This six month extension is critical and gives us the time necessary to conduct the administrative scheduling process for permanent control.”

The DEA said the smokeable herbal products marketed as being “legal” have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults. The DEA said the products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that claim to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The DEA said it has received an increased number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products since 2009.

FBI’s Keith Slotter to Retire as Head of San Diego Office

By Allan Lengel

Keith Slotter, who has headed the FBI’s San Diego office since 2007, and who once headed the Sacramento office, is retiring at the end of March to join the private sector.

Slotter, who was an accountant before joining the FBI, has been with the bureau for the past 25 years.

He began his FBI career as a Special Agent of the FBI in June 1987.

He has served in the Buffalo and Miami field offices, and as a Supervisor in the Financial Institution Fraud and Computer Crimes Unit at FBI Headquarters, before serving as a white-collar crime supervisor in Connecticut, the FBI said.

Slotter was Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Cleveland and then managed the Financial Crimes Program, implementing the FBI’s national white-collar crime strategy.

He went on to become Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Sacramento field office and then became the Deputy Assistant Director responsible for all operations at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

In 1997,  Slotter wrote and produced the short film “Shattered Faith – White- Collar Crime in America”, starring Brian Dennehy.  The FBI said he also  co-produced and corroborated on the screenplay for “A Meeting of Minds”, a joint U.S./British drama centered on international corporate espionage. In 2009, Mr. Slotter was the co-creator and Consulting Producer on “Inside the FBI”, a two-hour feature presentation on the Discovery Channel.

Slotter is also the co- creator and host of “San Diego’s Most Wanted – The FBI Files”, featured every Saturday night on the San Diego Fox network.


Detroit Fed Task Force to Go After Public Corruption

Chief Fed Judge Circulates Racist Joke About President Obama


Judge Richard Cebull/wikipedia

By Allan Lengel

It’s hard to imagine the chief federal judge in any district being so ignorant as to taint the bench and raise serious questions about the ability to be objective.

Well, meet Chief Judge Richard Cebull, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench in  Montana. Apparently he admitted Wednesday, according to press reports, to sending a racist email around that goes like this:

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the email joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’” […]

The website Think Progress Justice reported that Cebull forwarded the joke from his brother to a half dozen friends and acquaintances.

“The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan,” Cebull said, according to the website. “I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.“

USA Today reported that he sent a formal apology to the President, which said:

“I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself. I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again. I have requested that the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit review this matter. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.”

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said in a statement: “Chief Judge Richard Cebull’s email was deplorable, shameful and inexcusable. There is no way to shroud hatred under the cloak of differences in ideals. The email was blatantly racist and filled with the hateful rhetoric this country has strived so desperately to leave behind. An apology alone is not acceptable.”



FBI Dir. Robert Mueller Continues to Bang the Drum About the Dangers of Terrorists and the Cyber World

Robert Mueller III / file fbi photo By Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
There’s was nothing particularly shocking — or for that matter new — in FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III’s speech Thursday, but it was another reminder of the havoc and mischief we can expect via cyber attacks against business and government in the future.

Terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority,” Mueller told a crowd in San Francisco at the RSA Cyber Security Conference, according to the text of his speech. “But in the not too distant future, we anticipate that the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country.”

Mueller talked about how increasingly “cyber savvy” terrorist have become, citing as example, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has produced a full-color, English-language online magazine.

“They are not only sharing ideas, they are soliciting information and inviting recruits to join al Qaeda. ”

“Al Shabaab—the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia—has its own Twitter account. Al Shabaab uses it to taunt its enemies—in English—and to encourage terrorist activity, ” he said. “Extremists are not merely making use of the Internet for propaganda and recruitment. They are also using cyber space to conduct operations.”

“The individuals who planned the attempted Times Square bombing in May 2010 used public web cameras for reconnaissance. They used file-sharing sites to share sensitive operational details. They deployed remote conferencing software to communicate. They used a proxy server to avoid being tracked by an IP address. And they claimed responsibility for the attempted attack—on YouTube.”

To read the complete speech click here.



Feds Move to Crack Down on Gun Crimes in Detroit

FBI’s John Perren Named AD for Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate

John Perren/ttw photo

By Allan Lengel

John Perren, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Division at headquarters, is moving up. He’s been named to the post, Assistant Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.

Perren, a former D.C. cop who joined the FBI in 1987, will replace Dr. Vahid Majidi, who plans to retire in May. Majidi had come to FBI from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he served as the Chemistry Division Leader.

Earlier in his career, Perren was supervisor of the Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and then assistant special agent in charge.

In 2005, he spent a half year in Iraq as the FBI’s on-scene commander before returning home to headquarters to become section chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction/Domestic Terrorism Operations Section.

In 2007, he was named special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Branch at the Washington Field Office. He has twice filled in as acting head of the field office.

The FBI established the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate post about 5 1/2 years ago “to centralize and coordinate all WMD-related investigative activities, intelligence analysis capabilities, and technical expertise from across the Bureau.”


A Tale of Union Racketeering or How I Learned to Love the Hobbs Act

By Greg Stejskal

Richard Debs was President of the United Auto Workers union local 1776. (No relation to Eugene V. Debs, the union organizer and socialist from the early 20th Century.) Debs had been the President of the local for 15 years in 1988. 1776 was the local representing the workers at the General Motors Willow Run assembly plant near Ypsilanti, Mich., where the Chevrolet Impalas were made.

Debs liked that job. And authorities suspected he was willing to harm people to keep it. But before I get into that, a little more about the Willow Run plant.

Willow Run was a massive industrial complex first developed by Ford during World War II to make the B24 Liberator bombers. At that time it was the largest assembly line facility in the world. At its peak it turned out a bomber every 55 minutes and was home to Rosie the Riveter. (The model for the iconic picture worked at the plant.)

After the war GM acquired the complex, GM expanded and converted it to an assembly plant and another plant to build the GM Hydra-matic transmissions.

During the waning halcyon days of the American auto industry, as president of a local, Debs had considerable power over a fiefdom that was comprised of all the workers at the assembly plant. Debs did not work at the plant, but rather administered the local from an office in a union building near the plant.

Because all GM plant jobs required UAW membership, Debs had the ability to influence hiring and to disperse jobs. He also had political power in the local community that derived from his position. There were also ample opportunities for corruption and graft to those so inclined.

Periodically UAW local officers have to stand for reelection, and there was to be an election in the spring of 1989. Debs was being challenged for the presidency by two other local members, Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow. Despite Debs 15 years as president, he was not universally well liked. Also he had recently been charged albeit acquitted in a Federal corruption case involving a local judge. (The judge and several others were convicted.)

In the fall of 1988, the FBI learned from a confidential informant (CI)that Debs had been attempting to hire some men to dissuade by violence Gray and Harlow from running against Debs. The source knew the identities of some of the men that had been approached by Debs, but he/she did not know whether anyone had agreed to Debs’ plan.

Although the CI’s information was deemed creditable, it was not clear whether Debs had progressed beyond the solicitation stage, and we did not want to jeopardize the CI.

It was decided the best course of action was to advise the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the potential victims of the information. We arranged to have Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow come to the MSP Post in Ypsilanti which was the Post responsible for the Willow Run complex.

Gray and Harlow were apprised of the alleged threat. They were also advised to take some precautions like avoiding predictable routines and varying the routes to and from work.

About a month after the meeting with Gray and Harlow, Gray was shot in the neck while driving to work in the early morning of December 29th. Gray was not killed, but multiple shots had been fired at his truck from a pickup as it passed him. Gray was unable to give more than a general description of the pickup. He thought there was more than one person in the pickup, but he could not provide any descriptions.

MSP did the crime scene investigation and was able to recover several spent 9mm slugs from Gray’s vehicle including the one that struck Gray. Although Gray’s wound was not life threatening, it was serious, and it had to be concluded the shooter was trying to kill Gray.

As a result of the shooting, Gray dropped out of the race for presidency of the UAW local. Bob Harlow decided to continue his effort to unseat Debs, but he confided that following our warning, he had varied his route to and from work. Gray had not.

MSP and the FBI began an investigation into the shooting. We interviewed Debs. He denied any involvement in the shooting, and said he and his wife were in Cleveland visiting family at the time of the shooting. Debs also denied soliciting anyone to do harm to either Gray or Harlow.

During the investigation we were hearing rumors about Debs having unusually close relationships with young men and boys. (That would foreshadow some future events.)

We interviewed one of the young men. (I’ll refer to him as John.) John said that Debs had befriended him and had given him money and gifts, but denied being asked by Debs to do harm to anyone. When asked about his whereabouts at the time of the shooting, John said he was in Cleveland with Debs.

John elaborated that late on the night of December 28th, Debs and his wife came to John’s apartment. Debs said he would pay John to drive them in Debs’ car to Cleveland.

They drove to Cleveland and arrived early in the morning on the 29th. Debs had John drop them off at a house. Debs told John to pick them up at 11:00 am. When John picked them up, Debs had John drive them back to Michigan. Debs never explained to John why he and his wife needed to go to Cleveland late at night and a few hours later return home.

As an investigator you question coincidences. Why would Debs seemingly on the spur of the moment decide to travel to Cleveland hours before the shooting of Jesse Gray and then return only hours after the shooting? I remembered an old adage from the Book of Proverbs: “The wicked flee when none pursueth….” (Proverbs 28:1)

In April, Debs was defeated by Bob Harlow for the presidency of local 1776.

It had been months since the shooting, and we weren’t any closer to identifying the shooters or tying Debs to the shooting. MSP had to cut back on their involvement. We had done most of the investigation and without new leads a resolution didn’t seem too promising.

We had interviewed some of the individuals the CI said had been approached by Debs to dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All of them had been eliminated as the actual shooters.

We were able to confirm that 4 of the 5 men had been approached by Debs. He offered jobs and/or money to violently dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All 4 had refused Debs’ offer. There hadn’t been any further discussion as to what specific violence Debs had in mind.

I came away from those interviews not enthusiastic with how creditable these 4 men would be to a jury. When you try to recruit some guys to commit felonies of violence, you don’t go looking for Eagle Scouts.

When I interviewed the 5th man Debs reportedly had contacted, he said Debs had made the same proposal to him that he made to the others. The 5th man, Larry Poore, said his initial response to Debs was he didn’t even know Bob Harlow. So Debs gave Poore a photo of Harlow. Poore told Debs he would think about it, but he said he never had any intention to do anything. Later he told Debs he didn’t want to do it.

As I was getting ready to leave Poore’s home, he asked me if I wanted the photo Debs had given him of Harlow – I hadn’t thought to ask. The photo had potential to be a great windfall. I very carefully placed the photo in an evidence envelope. The next day I sent the photo to the FBI Lab with a request that it be examined for fingerprints. Any latent fingerprints found would be compared with the fingerprints of Poore and Debs. I wasn’t optimistic, but it was worth a shot.

When I received the lab report, it stated there were only two legible fingerprints on the photo. One was Larry Poore’s, the other was Richard Debs. I felt like I had just drawn to an inside straight. We now had physical evidence to corroborate Poole’s account of Debs’ solicitation which indirectly corroborated the other 4 men’s similar statements.

I knew we still couldn’t prove Debs had any connection to the shooting of Jesse Gray, but we could show that Debs prior to the shooting had attempted or conspired to commit violence against Harlow and Gray. Because this conspiracy’s goal was to impede UAW members from running for office it denied the member electorate a choice. Also because a conspiracy was alleged the rules as to hearsay evidence didn’t apply to statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.

In late fall, 1989, a Federal Grand Jury returned a 4 count indictment charging Debs under the Hobbs Act (18 USC 1951) with having “solicited 5 different men to do wrongful violence against Bob Harlow and Jesse Gray” in an attempt to frighten them away from running against Debs for the UAW local presidency. (The Hobbs Act was enacted as a statute to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes and corruption directed at members of labor unions.)

A 4th count of the indictment actually charged that “Debs caused Jesse Gray to be shot for the purpose of inducing him and other union members not to oppose Debs in the 1989 election.” We knew we would have difficulty proving Debs involvement in the shooting, but by charging it, we could make the jury aware of the shooting and Debs’ coincidental “fleeing” to Cleveland.

Pursuant to the indictment we arrested Debs at his home. He was in bed and on his nightstand was a 38-caliber revolver. When we arraigned Debs, the government asked for detention, but he was released on a $25,000 bond despite the nature of the charges.

In September 1990, Debs pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment. Debs was allowed to stay on bond until his sentencing.

In November while awaiting sentencing, Debs was arrested and charged with 1st degree criminal sexual conduct after allegedly forcing a 12-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him. Now he would await sentencing in jail.

In January, Debs was sentenced to 4 years for the Hobbs Act violation. Ultimately Debs pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15-30 years on the sex charge. Debs remained in prison until he died of natural causes.

Debs never admitted his involvement in the shooting of Jesse Gray, and the shooter(s) were never identified. But thanks to the Hobbs Act, at least as far as Debs was concerned, justice was served.