Los Angeles to Screen Transit Passengers With Body Scanners

Los Angeles CA Aug 15 2018 Los Angeles’s transit agency said Tuesday that it would become the first in the nation to screen its passengers with body scanners as they enter the public transit system — a bold effort to keep riders safer from terrorism and other evolving threats.

But officials said that riders need not worry that their morning commute would turn into the sort of security nightmare often found at airports or even sporting events. In a statement released Tuesday, transit officials said the portable screening devices they plan to deploy later this year will “quickly and unobtrusively” screen riders without forcing them to line up or stop walking.

“We’re looking specifically for weapons that have the ability to cause a mass casualty event,” Alex Wiggins, the chief security and law enforcement officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. “We’re looking for explosive vests, we’re looking for assault rifles. We’re not necessarily looking for smaller weapons that don’t have the ability to inflict mass casualties.”

The devices themselves resemble the sort of black laminate cases that musicians lug around on tour — not upright metal detectors. Dave Sotero, a spokesman for Metro, said the machines, which are on wheels, can detect suspicious items from 30 feet away and can scan more than 2,000 passengers per hour. The units can be pointed in the direction of riders as they come down an escalator or into a station.

“Most people won’t even know they’re being scanned, so there’s no risk of them missing their train service on a daily basis,” he said.

Mr. Sotero said the agency had purchased several of the units for about $100,000 each, but he would not specify exactly how many. He said that the authorities still needed to be trained on how to use the technology.

The county’s metro system has one of the largest riderships in the country, with 93 rail stations alone — and it is set to expand. Mr. Sotero said the new scanning units would be mostly deployed at random stations, but would certainly be used at major transit hubs and in places were large crowds are expected for marches, races and other events.

“There won’t be a deployment pattern that will be predictable,” he said. “They will go where they’re needed.”

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Woman in her 80s caught smuggling $870,000 worth of heroin

An older woman with United States citizenship attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday with 92 pounds of heroin in her car, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The 81-year-old woman attempted to enter the U.S. at the Tecate port of entry — located southeast of San Diego — with the drugs, which have an estimated street value of over $870,000, CBP reports.

The drugs were hidden inside a 2011 Chrysler 200 and were found by a K-9 team, according to a news release.

Cartels are known to manipulate people into carrying drugs over the border.

“CBP officers are aware of the many tactics used by the cartels and remain ever vigilant to stop anyone attempting to smuggle narcotics,” the release quotes Pete Flores, CBP director of field operations in San Diego.

One of those tactics: Drug cartels sometimes deceive elderly people into unknowingly carrying drugs across international borders, luring them with false promises and lies. The growing trend was documented in a 2016 New York Times report.

The woman was arrested and turned over to Homeland security officers. Her vehicle was seized, according to CBP.

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After 12 Years on the Run, Joseph Dibee Has Been Apprehended

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, one of two remaining fugitives linked to a domestic terrorism group that carried out dozens of criminal acts in the late 1990s, ranging from vandalism to arson, has been apprehended.

The 50-year-old fugitive, a U.S. citizen who had been on the run for 12 years, made an initial court appearance in Portland, Oregon today. He faces additional federal felony charges in California and Washington State.

Federal authorities learned that Dibee was traveling through Central America on his way to Russia with a planned stop in Cuba, according to court documents. With assistance from Cuban authorities, he was detained there before boarding a plane bound for Russia and was returned to the United States.

Dibee fled the U.S. in December 2005. In 2006, he was indicted along with 11 co-conspirators as part of Operation Backfire, a long-running FBI domestic terrorism investigation. The conspirators, known as The Family, have been linked to more than 40 criminal acts between 1995 and 2001, including arson and vandalism, causing more than $45 million in damages. The Family’s 1998 arson attack on a ski resort in Vail, Colorado—which caused estimated damages of $26 million—was its most notorious act.

“The crimes they committed were serious and dangerous,” said Special Agent Tim Suttles, who has been working the Operation Backfire investigation from the FBI’s Portland Division since 2004. “Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets. We are very gratified to have Dibee in custody.”

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Prolific Fraudster Sentenced to 40 Years

He was, in the words of the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting him, a “financial predator.” And the federal judge he recently stood before called his long-term fraud crime spree “outrageous” and “despicable,” noting the more than 500 victims ensnared by his latest scheme.

The individual in question is Harris Dempsey “Butch” Ballow, a Texas man who had seemingly made a career out of separating people from their hard-earned money through various financial scams—starting back in the 1980s. But that career has finally come to end: The 75-year-old Ballow was sentenced in May to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding investors in a Nevada company. He was also ordered to pay more than $37 million in restitution to those investors.

And according to FBI Houston Special Agent Kendall Hopper, who worked the case, what made this particular criminal scheme even worse was that Ballow had perpetrated it while he was a fugitive from justice hiding out in Mexico. “Ballow fled the United States in late 2004, right around the time he was scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on a previous federal conviction for fraud-related money laundering,” said Hopper, “but instead of keeping a low profile, he brazenly continued his criminal ways.”

In this most recent scheme that netted him the 40-year prison term, Ballow and co-conspirators were able to buy up the majority of the publicly traded shares of a Nevada company called E-SOL International Corporation and install fictitious people as company officers. At the time, E-SOL had almost no assets and conducted no business. Ballow then rebranded E-SOL as a holding company for a couple of phony businesses—of course controlled by him and his associates—and got to work soliciting investors.

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