Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Arrests in Four States of Racially Motivated Violent Extremists Targeting Journalists and Activists

Defendants Created and Coordinated Nationwide Delivery of Threatening Posters

Four racially motivated violent extremists from across the U.S. were arrested and charged today in U.S District Court in Seattle with a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists, the Department of Justice announced. Today’s arrests and searches by the FBI and local law enforcement are being coordinated by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Seattle, Tampa, Houston, and Phoenix.

“These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

“These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington.  “As Attorney General William Barr has made clear, rooting out anti-Semitic hate and threats of violence and vigorously prosecuting those responsible are top priorities for the Department of Justice.”

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and FBI-Tampa have been focused on identifying and eradicating the threat posed by the Atomwaffen Division both locally and nationally,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.  “Today’s arrests send a powerful message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal conduct based on hateful ideology.  We will continue to work with our partners here in the Middle District of Florida, and elsewhere, to devote our resources to investigate and prosecute those who aim to threaten and terrorize our communities.” 

The defendants charged in the conspiracy include:

     Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington;

     Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas;

     Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida, and

     Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate.  The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color.  Defendants Cole and Shea created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language.  The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically and the coconspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.  In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two individuals associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  In Tampa, the group targeted a journalist,but delivered the poster to the wrong address.  In Phoenix, the poster was delivered to a magazine journalist.

“Today’s announcement serves as a warning to anyone who intends to use violence as intimidation or coercion to further their ideology that the FBI remains steadfast in our commitment to protect Americans from domestic terrorism,” said Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn.  “These nationwide arrests are the result of the robust partnerships among the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Tampa, Seattle, Houston, and Phoenix and we appreciate their collective efforts.”

“The FBI recognizes all citizen's First Amendment-protected rights.  However the subjects arrested today crossed the line from protected ideas and speech to action in order to intimidate and coerce individuals who they perceived as a threat to their ideology of hate,” said Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Seattle.

“Today's takedown is proof the FBI in Tampa and our Joint Terrorism Task Force will work tirelessly to ensure communities are rid of hate inspired groups whose goal is to fuel intimidation and violence,” said FBI Tampa Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson.

Shea will make his initial appearance on the complaint at the federal courthouse in Seattle at 2 p.m. today.  Those arrested in other districts will make their appearances in federal court in those districts and will appear in Seattle on a future date.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Seattle, Tampa, Houston and Phoenix.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods with assistance from U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Texas, District of Arizona, and Central District of California.

Southwick Man Sentenced for Sending Threatening Letters and White Powder to Federal Agencies in Springfield

BOSTON – A Southwick man was sentenced today in federal court in Springfield for sending two packages containing white powder to federal agencies in Springfield.

Kevin A. Johnson, 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to time served in prison (almost 15 months) and three years of supervised release. In November 2019, Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of conveying false information and hoaxes. Johnson was arrested on Nov. 30, 2018.

Between July and November 2018, FBI’s Springfield Office and the Springfield Social Security Administration Office (SSA Springfield), collectively received three packages containing either threatening communications and/or suspicious substances. The Springfield Branch Office of the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office received a letter from an individual claiming responsibility for sending the packages. All of the packages contained a piece of white-lined paper with a hand-drawn logo that appeared to combine the “anarchist A” symbol (the capital letter “A” surrounded by the letter “O”) and the symbol for ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization. Two of the packages contained suspicious white powder.

On July 23, 2018, security cameras at the FBI Springfield Office captured an individual throwing a manila envelope at the front door. The package contained a handwritten note saying: “Death to TRUMP.”

On Oct. 23, 2018, SSA Springfield received a package containing white powder and a handwritten letter stating, among other things: “FOR ALLAH YOU DIE, ATHENA KNOWS YOUR LIES, DEATH TO YOU TRAITORS, AND THE FU----- FBI.”

On Oct. 24, 2018, the FBI Springfield Office received a package through the mail addressed to “AGENT UNCLE HAM.” The package contained white powder and a handwritten note stating: “FOR ALLAH YOU DIE, ATHENA KNOWS YOUR LIES, DEATH TO THE N.O.R.A.D SPIES, AND THE FBI.”

The white powder in the packages was found to contain no hazardous materials.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; Stephen A. Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Division; and Southwick Police Chief Kevin A. Bishop, made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by the Western Massachusetts Joint Terrorism Task Force, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, and Holyoke Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla, Chief of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office, prosecuted the case.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Belarus Man Indicted For Mailing Ricin And Threats To Pelican Bay State Prison

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Vladislav Victorvic Timoshchuk with attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon, mailing threatening communications, and mailing an injurious article, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

According to the indictment, Timoshchuk, 34, of Belarus, is alleged to have sent two envelopes containing ricin to Pelican Bay State Prison.  One of the envelopes was addressed to the Warden and contained ricin and a note, which read: “WARNING!  TOXIC! THIS LETTER IS LACED WITH DEADLY RICIN POWDER.”  The other envelope was addressed to inmate A.C. and contained ricin and a note, which read in part: “Release inmate A.C.”

The indictment further alleges that Timoshchuk had previously been incarcerated in California state prison facilities, after which he was deported from the United States to Belarus.  In 2016 and into 2018, Pelican Bay State Prison intercepted letters postmarked from Belarus to members of a prison gang, including to inmate A.C.  In that same timeframe, in 2017, the Anaheim Police Department investigated a school shooting threat, which demanded the release of inmate A.C. from Pelican Bay State Prison in order to avoid the “execution” of a student every day until that release occurred.  Later, in 2019, the Bureau of Prisons intercepted a Christmas card sent from Belarus to inmate Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in which Timoshchuk claimed responsibility for the threats to Anaheim schools and discussed a plan to mail ricin to the United States.

The indictment, filed on February 20, 2020, charges Timoshchuk with two counts of attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 175(a); two counts of interstate and foreign communication of a threat, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c); and two counts of mailing an injuries article, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1716(j)(1).  Timoschuk is not charged for threats other than the two mailings to Pelican Bay.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of life for each attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon; a maximum of five years for each interstate and foreign communication of a threat; and a maximum sentence of one year for each mailing of an injurious article.  Each charge also carries a potential term of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution as ordered by the court.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the United States Attorney’s Office.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI with the assistance of state and local law enforcement partners and the U.S. Postal Service.