Alaska couple admits to plot to kill federal judge and others

August 28, 2012

Reuters on August 28, 2012 released the following:

“By Yereth Rosen

(Reuters) – An Alaska couple pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of conspiring to kill a federal judge in what prosecutors said was a revenge plot over income-tax rulings against them.

Lonnie and Karen Vernon, followers of jailed Alaska militia leader Schaeffer Cox, reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid the need for a trial that had been set to begin next month.

The Vernons and Cox were active in the “sovereign citizen” movement, whose adherents believe individuals are sovereign nations and federal, state and local laws do not apply to them.

The Vernons each entered a guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit murder for their plan to kill Alaska-based U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, who presided over a federal income tax case that ultimately cost the couple their home.

The Vernons also admitted in their plea agreement to planning to kill an Internal Revenue Service official and Beistline’s daughter and grandchildren.

The Vernons bought a silencer-equipped pistol and grenades in March 2011 and told the seller of the weapons about their intentions, according to the plea agreement. But the seller turned out to be a confidential government informant, and the Vernons were arrested immediately after the transaction took place.

Despite entering his guilty plea, Lonnie Vernon disrupted Monday’s court proceedings with a number of defiant outbursts.

“If I’m accused of doing anything, I’m accused of freely exercising my First Amendment rights to the max,” he told Judge Robert Bryan, who was brought in from Tacoma, Washington, to preside over the case.

But Bryan told the defendant that he and others with similar political views are mistaken about their responsibilities to obey the law. “You can’t decide, on your own, that you won’t be part of what the government rules are,” Bryan said.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop related charges concerning murder threats and illegal weapons, according to the agreement filed on Monday.

Under the plea deal, Lonnie Vernon, 56, faces a prison term of 21 to 27 years when the couple is sentenced on November 14.

Agreement on a specific sentence for Karen Vernon, 66, was not reached, but prosecutors pledged to recommend a sentence of no longer than 15 years and eight months.

Lonnie Vernon also was a top officer in an organization called the Alaska Peacekeepers Militia, founded and led by Cox, 28.

In a separate case, Cox and Lonnie Vernon were convicted in June of conspiring to murder federal and state government officials and of acquiring illegal weapons to use against their targets. Karen Vernon was not a defendant in that case.

Sentencing for Cox and Lonnie Vernon on the militia-conspiracy case is set for September 14. Both men, along with Karen Vernon, have been jailed since they were arrested last year.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


James “Whitey” Bulger and Catherine Greig Arrested in California by the FBI

June 23, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on June 23, 2011 released the following:

“By BRIAN MELLEY and GREG RISLING
Associated Press

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was captured near Los Angeles 16 years after his run from the law sparked an international manhunt and served as a major embarrassment to the FBI as their onetime informant eluded authorities.

The FBI finally caught the 81-year-old Bulger at a residence in Santa Monica along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig on Wednesday, just days after the government launched a publicity campaign to locate the fugitive mobster, said Steven Martinez, FBI’s assistant director in charge in Los Angeles. The arrest was based on a tip from the campaign, he said.

Bulger, who was an inspiration for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film, “The Departed,” is wanted for his alleged role in 19 murders. One victim was shot between the eyes in a parking lot at his country club in Oklahoma. Another was gunned down in broad daylight on a South Boston street to prevent him from talking about the killing in Oklahoma. Others were taken out for running afoul of Bulger’s gambling enterprises.

“He left a trail of bodies,” said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major who was one of the lead investigators in the criminal case against Bulger. “You did not double-cross him. If you did, you were dead.”

Bulger provided information on a rival gang to the FBI, then fled in January 1995 when a former agent told him he was about to be indicted.

The FBI had been conducting surveillance in the area where Bulger was arrested, said police Sgt. Rudy Flores, who gave no details of the arrest. Agents swarmed around Bulger’s building late Wednesday, hours after the arrests in a neighborhood of two and three-story apartment buildings.

Bulger lived on the third floor of The Princess Eugenia, a three-story, 28-unit building of one and two-bedroom apartments three blocks from a bluff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Neighbors said the couple did not stand out.

Barbara Gluck, who lives on the same floor as Bulger and Greig, said she didn’t know their names but recognized them from photos on the Internet after she heard about their arrest.

Gluck described Greig as “sweet and lovely” and said they would have “girl talk” when they ran into each other in the building. Bulger became angry whenever he saw the two of them talking, and would say, “Stop talking to her,” Gluck said.

“He was nasty,” she added. “At one point, (Greig) said (Bulger) has a rage issue.”

Bulger and Greig were scheduled to appear in Los Angeles federal court Thursday. He faces a series of federal charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering, while the 60-year-old Greig is charged with harboring a fugitive.

The arrest brings an end to a manhunt that received worldwide attention as the FBI received reported sightings of Bulger and Greig from all over the United States and parts of Europe. In many of those sightings, investigators could not confirm whether it was Bulger who was spotted or a lookalike.

The investigation touched the highest level of Massachusetts politics. Bulger’s younger brother, William, was one of the most powerful politicians in the state, leading the Massachusetts Senate for 17 years and later serving as president of the University of Massachusetts for seven years. He resigned his post in August 2003 amid pressure from then-Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly.

William Bulger told a congressional committee that he spoke to his brother shortly after he went on the run in 1995 but had no idea about his whereabouts.

He declined to comment to the Boston Globe about his brother’s arrest.

For many years, William Bulger was able to avoid any tarnish from his brother’s alleged crimes. But in August 2003, he resigned his post as president of UMass amid pressure from then-Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly.

Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey” for his shock of bright platinum hair, grew up in a gritty South Boston housing project, and went on to become Boston’s most notorious gangster.

Along with Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, he led the violent Winter Hill Gang, a largely Irish mob that ran loan-sharking, gambling and drug rackets in the Boston area. U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said in 2000 that the two were “responsible for a reign of intimidation and murder that spanned 25 years.”

Prosecutors said he went on the run after being warned by John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent in Boston who had made Bulger an informant 20 years earlier. Connolly was convicted of racketeering in May 2002 for protecting Bulger and Flemmi, also an FBI informant.

Bulger provided the Boston FBI with information on his gang’s main rival, the New England Mob, in an era when bringing down the Mafia was one of the FBI’s top national priorities.

But the Boston FBI office was sharply criticized when the extent of Bulger’s alleged crimes and his cozy relationship with the FBI became public in the late 1990s.

A congressional committee, in a draft report issued in 2003, blasted the FBI for its use of Bulger and other criminals as informants, calling it “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement.”

After he fled, Bulger became one of the nation’s most-hunted fugitives. With a place next to Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, he had a $2 million reward on his head.

In September 2002, the FBI received the most reliable tip in three years when a British businessman who had met Bulger eight years earlier said he spotted Bulger on a London street.

After the sighting, the FBI’s multiagency violent fugitive task force in Boston and inspectors from New Scotland Yard scoured London hotels, Internet cafes and gyms in search of Bulger. The FBI also released an updated sketch, using the businessman’s description of Bulger as tan, white-haired and sporting a gray goatee.

On Monday, the FBI announced a new publicity campaign and accompanying public service ad that asked people, particularly women, to be on the lookout for Greig. The 30-second ad started running Tuesday in 14 television markets to which Bulger may have ties and was to air during programs popular with women roughly Greig’s age.

The new campaign pointed out that Greig had several plastic surgeries before going on the lam and was known to frequent beauty salons.

On Thursday, Bulger’s picture on the Ten Most Wanted list was spanned by a red banner that said “Captured.” Greig’s photo, with the same banner, was displayed prominently.

John Weiskopf, who lives across the street from Bulger’s Santa Monica building, said he recognized Bulger when he saw his photo on the Internet.

“I recognized him. I said `Holy Smokes,'” he said.

“From what I understand, these were really gracious easy-going people,” Weiskopf said. “They don’t come out with fangs, they just blended in.””

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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