Monday, March 23, 2020

Man Who Attempted to Bomb Downtown Oklahoma City Bank Sentenced to 25 Years

OKLAHOMA CITY — Today, Jerry Drake Varnell, 26, of Sayre, Oklahoma, was sentenced to serve 25 years, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release, for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction at BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City. 

United States Attorney Timothy J. Downing of the Western District of Oklahoma, Special Agent-in-Charge Melissa R. Godbold of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office, and Chief Wade Gourley of the Oklahoma City Police Department made the announcement.

"The U.S. Government identified Jerry Drake Varnell after learning of his intent to commit this attack," said U.S. Attorney Downing.  "This case required thorough investigation and careful coordination among agents and prosecutors in a matter that is our highest priority—terrorism," said U.S. Attorney Downing.  "The investigation and prosecution stopped an attempt to seemingly replicate the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in our Nation’s history.  The sentence imposed today will hold accountable Varnell for his crime and deter others from engaging in this conduct.  I want to thank the agents, analysts, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors whose dedication is responsible for this case."

"The investigation of Varnell was the result of the tireless efforts of the FBI Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force and nearly 100 of our partners from federal, state, and local law enforcement. We cannot thank these departments enough for their work to bring Varnell to justice,” said Melissa Godbold, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Oklahoma City Field Office. “I remind the public that combatting terrorism, both domestically and internationally, has been and will continue to be the FBI’s number one priority."

OCPD Chief Gourley said: "This case is extremely poignant considering we are approaching the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  This event not only scarred the community of Oklahoma City, but had a profound effect on the nation and set about a response known as the Oklahoma Standard.  This Standard was evident in the teamwork and cooperation among agencies in the successful investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of this case.  My thanks go out to all involved for their hard work and commitment to prevent another devastating attack in our community."

In February 2019, a federal jury deliberated four hours before they returned a unanimous verdict of guilty on one count of attempting to use an explosive device to damage a building used in interstate commerce and one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property used in interstate commerce.

The FBI arrested Varnell at approximately 1:00 a.m. on August 12, 2017, after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van he had parked in an alley next to BancFirst, at 101 North Broadway.  The  arrest was the culmination of a long-term domestic terrorism investigation involving an undercover operation, during which Varnell had been monitored closely for months as the bomb plot developed.  The explosives were inert, and the public was not in danger.  FBI had received information that Varnell initially wanted to blow up the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., with a device similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because he was upset with the government.

On October 17, 2017, a federal grand jury charged Varnell with attempting to use an explosive device to damage and destroy BancFirst’s corporate offices.  After a psychological evaluation, the court entered an order on November 21, 2017, that found him competent to stand trial.  The grand jury returned a superseding indictment on April 17, 2018, that added one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

At trial, the jury heard testimony from an informant who made recordings of his conversations with Varnell.  It also heard from the undercover FBI agent who helped Varnell build what he thought was a bomb, an FBI bomb technician, and others.  It listened to numerous recordings in which Varnell planned the attack and reviewed numerous written electronic communications that corroborated his intent.  Furthermore, it heard the testimony of a defense expert concerning Varnell’s mental health.  Through its verdicts, the jury concluded any mental health problems did not prevent Varnell from forming the intent required for conviction.  It also determined the FBI did not entrap him.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, including members from the Oklahoma City FBI; Homeland Security Investigations, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Oklahoma City Police Department; the Edmond Police Department; the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  The FBI worked in conjunction with BancFirst during the investigation.  Oklahoma District Attorney Angela Marsee, of District 2, also provided assistance.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Dillon and Mark R. Stoneman, with assistance from the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pakistani Doctor Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald for the District of Minnesota today announced a federal criminal complaint against Muhammad Masood, 28, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Masood, who was arrested earlier today at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Masood was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

According to the allegations in the complaint, Masood, a licensed medical doctor in Pakistan, was formerly employed as a Research Coordinator for a medical clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, under an H-1B Visa. Between January 2020 and March 2020, Masood made several statements to others, including pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) and its leader, and expressing his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. Masood also expressed his desire to conduct “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in the United States. On Feb. 21, 2020, Masood purchased a plane ticket from Chicago, Illinois to Amman, Jordan, and from there planned to travel to Syria. On March 16, 2020, Masood’s travel plans changed because Jordan closed its borders to incoming travel due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Masood made a new plan to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet up with an individual who he believed would assist him with travel via cargo ship to deliver him to ISIS territory.

On March 19, 2020, Masood traveled from Rochester to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to board a flight bound for Los Angeles, California. Upon arrival at MSP, Masood checked in for his flight and was subsequently arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew R. Winter and Timothy C. Rank, with assistance from Trial Attorney Katie Sweeten of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Southwest Washington man charged with making anti-Semitic threats against neighbor

Angry over child custody case, defendant posted multiple threats to harm or kill online

Tacoma, Washington – A 48-year old La Center, Washington man was arrested today on a criminal complaint charging him with cyberstalking and two counts of interstate threats, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  MATHIAS DOUGLAS KANE was arrested late yesterday without incident outside his home. KANE will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tacoma at 2:30 today.

According to the criminal complaint, KANE made online threats against a neighbor who took in KANE’s 13-year-old child when the child needed a place to live.  On multiple occasions in January 2020, KANE posted personally identifying information about his neighbor online and threatened to harm her.  KANE posted anti-Semitic comments and threatened to harm state Child Protective Services (CPS) workers, members of law enforcement and Jews.  KANE identified himself as a White Nationalist and used a screenname and images involving NAZI symbols.

On two occasions KANE was contacted by law enforcement regarding his access to weapons. KANE denied possessing firearms, but refused to allow law enforcement to search his home.  KANE posted multiple times about manufacturing guns and ammunition and his access to firearms parts.  A search of his home and vehicle last night did not recover any firearms.

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.

Cyberstalking and making interstate threats are both punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The case is being investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the La Center Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.