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Murders Dropping in U.S. Towns Bordering Mexico

el paso map istockBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Amid all the gloomy and scary news about the Mexican drug cartel violence, comes a little good news.

USA Today reports that beefed up law enforcement patrols along the U.S. Mexican border may be helping prevent some of the Mexican drug cartel violence from spilling over to the U.S.

The paper reports that murders in El Paso fell from six in the first half of 2008 to four in the same period this year, according to the FBI.

In the first half of 2009, nearly 1,000 people were killed in the neighboring Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez.

What’s more in Tucson, murders fell from 30 in the first half of 2008 to nine during the same period in 2009, USA Today reported. The drop is part of an overall decrease in the murder rate in the U.S.

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. ”

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.”

John Perren Named Interim Head of FBI Washington Field Office

John Perren

John Perren

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — John G. Perren,  special agent in charge of counter-terrorism at the FBI’s Washington field office, has been named the interim head of the office, authorities said Wednesday.

Perren will replace Joseph Persichini Jr, the assistant director in charge of the office, who officially retires on Christmas day. Perren’s appointment becomes effective Dec. 26.

Perren, who joined the bureau in 1987, spent a half year in Iraq for the FBI in 2005 as the on-scene commander before returning home to headquarters to become section chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction/Domestic Terrorism Operations Section.

In 2008, he became the special agent in charge of the counterterrorism division for the Washington Field Office.

He replaces Persichini, who retires under a cloud. The Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating allegations that Persichini and two other high ranking agents in the office may have worked together and may have gotten help from an FBI lawyer on an open book exam on bureau procedures, which is a violation of bureau policy.

Nothing happened to Persichini, who had been planning to retire anyways from the bureau. The two other agents still face possible discipline, which may include a demotion and a transfer to another FBI office.

FBI Agent Wounded and Parolee Killed in Flint, Mi. Incident on Tuesday

Ex-Gov Blago’s Brother Wants FBI Intercepted Conversations Kept Private

Ex-Gov. Blago while in office/official photo

Ex-Gov. Blago while in office/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The brother of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich isn’t happy –not at all.

Brother Robert Blagojevich, who faces criminal charges himself in connection with the public corruption case against his brother, is asking a Chicago federal judge to keep private 208 phone calls he claims the FBI wrongly intercepted, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

A court filing shows the FBI captured more than five hours of onversations between Robert Blagojevich and his wife or son, the Sun-Times reported.

His attorney Michael Ettinger told the Sun-Times those conversations shouldn’t have been recorded.

“To the extent that they did it, my client is extremely upset as is his wife,” Ettinger said, and added that there’s nothing illicit about those conversation. “It’s wrong, they violated the statute. And it’s the principle of it. They can’t break the law and get away with it,” Ettinger said.

Robert Blagojevich, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., ran his brothers campaign fund.

For more click here.

Fed Agents Behaving Badly in 2009

By Allan Lengel
For  AOL News

WASHINGTON — The Inept Criminal is by now a well-established and extensively chronicled archetype, with whole Web sites devoted to the misadventures of dumb, stupid and just plain crazy law-breakers. But law enforcement has its own share of bunglers, and Sphere believes they deserve attention, too. Herewith, a sampling of some of the federal officers who ran afoul of statutes, and common sense, this past year.

FBI Agent Shot A Chihuahua Just Like This One/istock photo

FBI Agent Shot A Chihuahua Just Like This One/istock photo

Yo Quiero Peace and Quiet
Even their biggest fans would concede that those lovable Chihuahuas (Taco Bell pitchmen and otherwise) can be a little annoying at times. Well, Waco, Texas, FBI agent Lovett Leslie Ledger decided to put a stop to the yapping of his neighbor’s Chihuahua, Sassy, in 2008 by shooting Sassy with a pellet gun. The barking ended, but Ledger’s troubles had just begun. Earlier this year, he pleaded no contest to a felony charge for animal cruelty and was put on two years’ probation and given 300 hours of community service. He also became the target of an internal probe and left the FBI in October.

Agent Slep with FBI Informant Lori Mody

Agent Slept with FBI Informant Lori Mody

Internal Affairs
Unlike Tiger Woods, FBI agent John Guandolo actually went to the trouble of making his own record of his extramarital relations, compiling a list of the indiscretions at the suggestion of his therapist, who thought the exercise would help Guandolo assess the damage his philandering had done to his marriage. As it turned out, said list included female FBI agents, as well as a key witness in the public corruption case of ex-Rep. William Jefferson. Worse still, a co-worker found the list and turned it over to a supervisor late last year. Guandolo quit, but in June, the U.S. attorney’s office learned of the memo and notified the court shortly before the Jefferson trial began, which in turn led to the memo’s going public in September.

phoenix-map

External Affairs
In 2002, in the line of duty, FBI agent Joe L. Gordwin of Phoenix arrested a man as part of gang investigation. Then, stepping way over the line, he started having an affair with the man’s wife. Two years later, the husband got out of prison, and the affair was briefly put on hold; when it resumed, Gordwin tipped off Scottsdale, Ariz., police that the husband was again up to no good. The husband, along with his son, was arrested for a robbery at a Radio Shack; Gordwin, now fearing the husband was going to rat him out, decided to confess the sordid sage to his supervisor. Told to end the affair, Gordwin instead told his mistress to lie to investigators. Gordwin pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges linked to covering up the improper sexual relationship and received four years probation.

Linda Fiorentino

Linda Fiorentino

Not a Hollywood Ending
Dapper FBI agent Mark Rossini leaked a secret FBI document to his girlfriend, actress Linda Fiorentino, who in turn gave it to the attorney for rogue detective Anthony Pellicano, who went on trial for illegally wiretapping some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Pellicano was convicted anyway; Rossini lost his $140,000 a year FBI job, and, contrary to the stereotypical celluloid plotline, also lost the girl: Eventually it was splitsville for him and Fiorentino.

drunk driving

Spinner Out of Control
FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey was the voice of the bureau down in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but on this case, she had little to say. In September, she pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges stemming from a 2008 arrest, which KRLD news radio reported came after she caused a wrong-way crash on the Dallas North Tollway while driving at a high rate of speed. Having stepped down from her post shortly after the arrest, she was sentenced to probation and fined $900.

Testing Their Luck

Cheating on an exam is one thing; cheating on an open-book exam, quite another. But such is the focus of an internal investigation into whether three top agents in the FBI’s Washington field office — head of the office Joseph Persichini Jr. and special agents in charge Keith Bryars and Andrew Castor — worked together on the test and also got help from an FBI lawyer, in violation of bureau policy.Persichini, who was already planning to retire soon, is leaving Dec. 25. Word has it the two other agents may get demoted and reassigned to offices in Virginia and Maryland.

ice cube


Hold the ICE

Richard P. Cramer was a high-ranking Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who worked along the border between Arizona and Guadalajara, Mexico. Unfortunately, say the feds, he was also working for the wrong side. Cramer left ICE in 2007, but in September, authorities arrested him for allegedly having helped large-scale drug traffickers smuggle cocaine into the U.S. by providing them with inside info. Authorities also allege that it was the drug smuggling organization that convinced Cramer to retire — so he could get directly involved with its drug-running and money-laundering businesses.

Withholding Autopsy Report of Imam Killed by FBI in Michigan Raises Suspicions

dearbornBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Muslim community in the Detroit area is raising questions about a delay in the release of a medical examiner’s report on the death of an Imam, who was shot and killed by the FBI on Oct. 28, the Detroit News is reporting.

“The unfortunate and perhaps unintended consequence is that the failure to release the autopsy report and the very exorbitant amount for the pictures is raising in the minds of some people in the community that there’s a potential cover-up,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Michigan told the Detroit News.

The FBI shot and killed Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah , 53, during a raid at a Dearborn warehouse that was part of a probe into a fencing operation. Authorities alleged that the Imam shot and killed an FBI dog before he was shot and killed.

The News reported that Dennis Niemiec, a spokesman for the county, said Monday that the report is complete, but the Dearborn police chief does not want to release it until his department’s investigation into the matter is complete.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold told the News it’s not up to the FBI whether to release the report, but evidence is often not made public during an investigation.

For Full story