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TSA Seizes Cigar Humidor That Resembled Pipe Bomb

A homemade cigar humidor seized at LaGuardia Airport. Photo via TSA.

By Steve Neavling

TSA screeners were in for a scare at LaGuardia Airport on Sunday when they spotted what appeared to be a pipe bomb inside a traveler’s carry-on luggage.  

Turns out, the nine-inch PVC pipe was a homemade cigar humidor. Along with the pipe where two torch-style lighters.  

When TSA officials opened the pipe, they found a half-smocked cigar.

But because the pipe “could too easily be perceived bu the flight crew and other passengers as a pipe bomb,” TSA officials said the Hopewell Junction, N.Y., resident could not board the plane with the humidor. 

 “Our TSA officers are vigilant about looking for explosive devices, and this certainly gave the impression that it could be a pipe bomb that someone was attempting to carry onto an aircraft,” Robert Duffy, TSA’s federal security director for LaGuardia Airport, said in a statement. “Fortunately it turned out not to be an explosive device, but had he pulled it out during his flight, it could have caused a panic. Replica weapons are not permitted on aircraft and this easily could have passed for an improvised explosive device. It was a good catch on the part of the officers who were staffing the checkpoint.”

Woman Repeatedly Impersonates FBI Agent to Score Free Chick-Fil-A Meals

By Steve Neavling

A Georgia woman impersonated an FBI agent and even threatened to arrest employees of a local Chick-Fil-A in repeated attempts to score free meals, according to the Rockmart Police Department.  

The ruse landed her in jail. 

Kimberly Ragsdale, 47, was charged with impersonating a public officer and released from jail Saturday on $3,000 bond, The Associated Press reports.

When police arrived to arrest her Thursday, Ragsdale continued to claim she was an FBI agent, insisting her credentials were electronic-only. As she was handcuffed, police said she began to “talk into her shirt like she was talking into a radio telling someone that we were arresting her and to send someone to Rockmart PD,” officers wrote in the arrest report, according to the arrest report. 

“You will not hear a real officer demand a meal anywhere,” Chief Randy Turner said. “If it is given, we appreciate it. If it is discounted, we appreciate it. We will not ask for it or make threats and demand it.”

Former Tulsa Police Officer Charged with First-Degree Murder in Death of Daughter’s Boyfriend

Former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler. Photo via Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

By Steve Neavling

A former Tulsa police officer accused of fatally shooting his daughter’s boyfriend in 2014 has been charged with first-degree murder after he was tried four times in state court. 

Shannon James Kepler was previously found guilty by a jury but the case was appealed as his defense argued his state-level conviction should be vacated and the case be transferred to the Muscogee Creek Nation, where is a member.  

Kepler was charged with first-degree murder in Indian Country, causing death by using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence, and assault with a dangerous weapon in Indian Country, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Oklahoma.

“Nineteen-year-old Jeremey Lake’s life was senselessly cut short in 2014 when Shannon Kepler allegedly shot and killed him,” U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said in a statement. “Our victim specialists are communicating with Jeremey’s family and will be with them every step of the way as this case moves forward in federal court. Our prosecutors have worked hand in hand with our partners at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office to ensure this young man and his family experience a full measure of justice.”

The Tulsa Police Department and FBI led the investigation. 

TSA Prevents Traveler from Boarding Plane with Baby Shark Submerged in Liquid

Baby shark submerged in liquid. Photo via TSA.

By Steve Neavling

The TSA made a startling discovery at a security checkpoint at Syracuse International Airport.

A traveler with a dead baby shark in a jar of “unknown” liquid wanted to board a plane. 

The shark, it appears, wasn’t the problem. It was the liquid in the jar. 

TSA prevented the man from boarding the plane with baby Jaws.

“Due to the chemical nature of and quantity of the liquid, it was not allowed on the plane,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein posted on Twitter on Sunday, along with a photo of the shark.

Travelers also are prohibited from boarded a plane with more than 3.4 ounces of bottled liquid, which must be packed in a quart-sized bag. 

Weekend Series on Crime History: Undercover FBI Agent Jack Garcia

ATF Busts Michigan Sex Offender Accused of Impersonating ATF Agent

Christopher Proe, via U.S. Attorney’s Office.

By Steve Neavling

The ATF on Thursday arrested a convicted sex offender in Michigan who was impersonating an undercover ATF agent. 

Christopher Proe, 36, of Redford Township in suburban Detroit, was “typically wearing an ATF badge around his neck or belt, while simultaneously carrying a police radio, handcuffs and firearm,” ATF Special Agent Justin Henry wrote in a criminal complaint obtained by The Detroit News.

According to the complaint, Proe went by the pseudonym Chris Conley and told people he was an ATF supervisor in Detroit. 

“Proe has detained people before using ATF authority,” a third informant told investigators.

A serial felon with past convictions of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, weapons crime, conspiracy to defraud the government, and false pretenses, Roe was barred from possessing a firearm. 

When ATF agents arrested Proe at his girlfriend’s home in Redford Township, they found a loaded, stolen pistol, a replica ATF badge, and ammunition. Inside a pickup truck, agents also found additional ammunition and clothing that resembled a law enforcement uniform. 

Replica badge, stolen gun, and ammunition, via U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Secret Service Ramps Up Protection for Joe Biden Ahead of Potential Victory

By Steve Neavling

As Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gets closer to the 270 electoral college votes needed to clinch the election, the Secret Service is sending more protection to Wilmington, Del.

The Secret Service deployed additional agents for added protection around the Wilmington convention center, which the former Vice President plans to continue using for at least another day, The Washington Post reports, adding that Biden is preparing for a potentially major speech Friday. 

Biden has already been receiving security from dozens of Secret Service agents. 

Despite the influx of new agents, Biden still doesn’t have the full protective detail he’d receive as president-elect. In the past, protection is ramped up after a candidate gives a victory speech, and the opponent concedes defeat. 

As of Friday morning, Biden held razor-thin leads in Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. President Trump’s lead is narrowing in Pennsylvania, where thousands of votes have yet to be counted in Democratic strongholds. 

But it doesn’t appear Trump plans to concede the election anytime soon, claiming widespread fraud without any evidence Thursday. Even Republicans have acknowledged there’s no evidence of widespread fraud. 

Under agency protocol, Biden would be treated as president-elect after he electoral college gathers in mid-December to certify the election results. 

Ex-Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to 166 months in prison in Drug Trafficking Scheme

Ex-Border Patrol Agent Daniel Polanco.

By Steve Neavling

A former Border Patrol agent who was indicted on multiple drug trafficking charges and threatening a federal agent with bodily harm has been sentenced to 166 months in prison.

Daniel Polanco, 39, of Edinburg, Texas, was among six law enforcement officials charged in a scheme to steal cocaine and marijuana from drug dealers in the Rio Grande Valley before selling the drugs in Houston.  

His conviction was part of operation Blue Shame, an ongoing sting designed to root out corrupt law enforcement officers. Homeland Security is leading the operation, with the help of local police, the Texas Attorney General’s Office and CBP’s air and marine units.

U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison said Polanco exploited his position of trust as a law enforcement officer in order to commit crimes. 

“Every day, dedicated law enforcement officers across the nation risk their lives to make our communities safe, DEA Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple said in a statement. “The criminal actions of Daniel Polanco, for which he was justly sentenced, demean that dedication and sacrifice. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target all narcotics traffickers, especially those who abuse their office and the trust of the American Public.”

The Justice Department wrote in a news release:

The investigation began in 2011 when authorities targeted a drug trafficking organization involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Authorities soon found the organization was also stealing loads of cocaine and marijuana from sources of supply. As part of the scheme, the organization had created fake bundles of drugs and used law enforcement officers to seize them in order to cover up the theft.

At trial, the jury heard Polanco helped facilitate the distribution of more than 15 kilograms of cocaine in April 2013. He and others were hired to transport the cocaine but stole it instead and sold the cocaine for profit. To cover up the theft, co-conspirators created fake drug bundles that were placed in an abandoned vehicle. Polanco assisted in the planning and staging of that incident and devised a plan to ensure law enforcement seized the sham bundles. He personally called authorities to report the abandoned vehicle and falsely reported the vehicle as looking suspicious.

Testimony revealed the drug trafficking organization paid Polanco for his participation in the scheme to seize the fake drugs. The jury also heard he made a false statement to an agent who was investigating the 15-kilogram cocaine seizure in an attempt to cover up his involvement in the transaction.

Polanco testified at trial and denied participating in the scheme. The jury did not believe his claims and convicted him of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and knowingly giving a false statement to a federal agent.

Following that verdict and losing a legal motion, Polanco threatened one of the federal agents involved in the case. He was charged and later convicted of threatening to commit bodily harm with the intent to intimidate, interfere or impede the agent while he was engaged in the performance of his official duties and/or to retaliate against him for performance of his official duties.

The drug trafficking investigation has led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 individuals including six law enforcement officers, one of whom has already received a 10-year prison term.