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Operation Deathmatch

In Crime, Politics, World on January 27, 2011 at 3:59 am

Pat Durkin plans to be in the courtroom in Portland Federal Court on Thursday when Doitchen Krasev is sentenced for identity theft.

“He was the toughest defendant I ever encountered in my 25 years,” Durkin said by phone soon after arriving here from San Francisco where he is the Special Agent in a charge for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Services.

Krasev is a Bulgarian immigrant who arrived here legally but then fled his life in Washington DC and moved about the country before finally adopting the identity of Jason Evers who was a three-year-old boy murdered in Ohio several years ago.

In that capacity, Durkin oversees the bureau’s Operation Deathmatch.

“We started in 2005′” said Durkin. “We use a computer program to match passport applications with death records and find people who are living under stolen identities.”

Durkin, who is in charge of operations for the Bureau in ten states in the West – besides his main office in San Francisco, he has offices in Portland, Seattle and Denver – said the initial investigation found more than 200 people with stolen identities.

“We’ve had more than 100 convictions,” said Durkin who added most of the people fall into one of four main categories: fugitives, pedophiles, draft deserters and migrant workers here illegally.

“Mostly, they are people looking to leave behind some sort of criminal past,” said Durkin.

Krasev, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to fit neatly into one of those categories.

When he was discovered by Durkin and his agents, he was living in Bend working as an investigator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“I don’t know that we ever had someone steal someone’s identity and then become a law enforcement agent,” said Durkin.

Durkin, for his part, hadn’t planned on becoming a law enforcement agent – before joining the DSS he spent five years working as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital.

“I come from a large, Irish Catholic family,” he said. “Someone had to go into law enforcement and it was decided it would be me.”

Durkin, whose dad was an immigration agent at Ellis Island, applied to several different agencies.

“Diplomatic Security was the first to call me back,” he said. “I’ve been with them ever since.”

That was 25 years ago. Since then Durkin has worked all over, including stints in Colombia, Peru and Cuba.

“It’s been busy but fun,” said Durkin. “Not everyone knows about us and even those that do don’t realize the diversity of what the Bureau does. We protect the Secretary of State, we provide the protection for embassies around the world and we oversee protection of visiting dignitaries.”

And in all that time, Durkin had never met anyone quite like Doitchen Krasev.

“When we brought him in, he was very clear – ‘You’ll never find out who I really am,’ he told me,” Durkin said.

“And for a little while, it wasn’t clear that we would,” said Durkin. “Fortunately, good police work made sure he was wrong and we were unable to unravel his story. His real story.”

Durkin won’t be the only interested observer watching when Krasev is sentenced,

The family of Jason Evers, the boy who was kidnapped and murdered, whose identity was stolen by Krasev, will also be there. And when the sentencing is done, Krasev and the family will meet.

And soon after that, Durkin will be back on a plane to San Francisco. There are, after all, more cases to pursue.

Durkin said that what often happens is that someone will start by getting a birth certificate.

“Then they go after a drivers license and start to get overly confident,” said Durkin. “And then they decide ti go after the gold standard – a passport – and that’s when we catch them.”

Durkin said that one of the issues that make it easy for criminals is that some states allow you to get a birth certificate online.

“All you need is the date of birth and the names of the parents,” he said. “Krasev figured out how easy it was.”

Durkin said they need to close that loophole.

“In the meantime, we keep running checks,” said Durkin. “And we keep finding more people.”

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Who is Doitchen Krasev?

In Crime, Strange, World on January 26, 2011 at 5:21 am

In the Spring of 2009, an inspector for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission named Jason Evers was arrested when it turned out that he had stolen the identity of a three-year-old boy who had been murdered in Ohio several years before.

For several weeks, the msn refused to give authorities any clues as to his real identity. When he did, it turned out to be quite a story.

On Thursday, he will be in Federal Court in Portland to be sentenced for identity fraud. The family of the real Jason Evers will be in attendance.

Here is a story I wrote about Evers for KGW.Com

***

In the Spring of 2009, an inspector for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission named Jason Evers was arrested. It turned out he was not Jason Evers who had been a three-year-old who had been murdered in Ohio several years before. After being arrested, the man refused for weeksnto give the authorities any clue as to his real identity. When he did,it was quite a story. Here’s the story I did fir KGW about the mystery.

Krasev will be sentenced in Federal Court in Portland on Thursday. The family of the real Jason Evers will be among those in attendance.

Jason Evers. Dutch Kiser. Danny Kaiser. Doitchin Krasev.

While it turns out that the former Bend-based investigator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been known by several names over the years, his real identity is Doitchin Krastev, an immigrant from Sofia, Bulgaria.

His grandfather, for whom he is named, was a leading Bulgarian general who was a hero in the partisan fight against

Adolph Hitler.

His father, Dr. Dincho Krastev, is a noted mathematician and the director of the Central Library of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. His mother, Baychinska, is one of the leading Jungian scholars in Eastern Europe.

“Doitchin is so smart, he had so much potential to become a leader in his country,” according to Michael Horowitz, a former Reagan Administration official who helped Doitchin come to the United States and acted as a surrogate father to him here. “It is such a sad tale.”

Horowitz is now the director of Hudson Institute’s Project for Civil Justice Reform and Project for International Religious Liberty in Washington D.C.

Horowitz said he was in Moscow in the early 1990s as part of a trip through Eastern Europe to look for marketing opportunities in the aftermath of the fall of Communism when he met the press secretary to Czech President Vaclav Havel.

“She told me to go to Sofia and meet a friend of hers from college,” Horowitz remembers. “That’s how I met Dincho, his wife and their son, Doitchin.”

At the time, according to Horowitz, many of Eastern Europe’s top scientists were in an unusual position. They had a certain amount of freedom from politics but often made little money and, thus, were limited in how much they could provide for their children.

“Doitchin’s parents, their friends, their families, these were people we were privileged to meet,” said Horowitz. “We wanted to do what we could to help them.”

Of course, at the time, he had no idea where the story would lead. How Doitchin would change names – change identities over the years – eventually reaching the point where he is now, a former OLCC investigator facing federal charges for allegedly stealing the identity of a three-year-old boy in Ohio who was murdered 28 years ago.

How Doitchin would only be caught when he tried applying for a passport under the assumed identity.

A U.S. EDUCATION

The more that Horowitz and his wife got to know Krastev’s parents, the closer they became.

That’s when they came up with the idea of offering up their home to Doitchin so he could live in the United States and get an education here. Everyone thought it was a great idea.

Horowitz says it didn’t take long for Doitchin to adjust though there were obstacles.

“He had been at Georgetown Day (a prestigious prep school) for about a month and he came home one day and was just amazed,” Horowitz recalled. “Not only did nobody cheat, they turned people in for cheating, he said. It was so different from Bulgaria.”

“In my country, everyone cheats,” Horowitz remembered the young man saying, “Here people are so lucky because even when they lose, they win because they live in a country of rules.”

“More and more,” Horowitz said, “he was identifying with being an American and less with his native country.”

One day, Horowitz noticed that Krastev had dropped the ‘t’ from his last name, making it sound, the young man thought, less Bulgarian.

“I asked him about that,” he said. “We would talk about the missing ‘t’ and I would say to him, Doitchin, we are so happy to have you here, you have added so much to our lives. But what do you want from life? You could find a place in nice American city and have a life with a white picket fence or you could home and with your skills be a leader in industry, a leader in your country.”

Krastev rejected the idea of returning.

Horowitz said he told him “I’m not Bulgarian.’ Apparently, the thought of being here was what really appealed to him. He rejected being a Bulgarian with such an intensity.”

DROPPING OUT

After Krastev dropped out of college and disappeared, Horowitz and his wife hired a private investigator to try and find him.

“We didn’t know if he was alive, if he had died, it was so horrible, the not-knowing,” said Horowitz who now realizes that, in trying to find Krastev, they were probably driving him farther away.

“It really is a horrible irony,” he said. “We really think that he knew we were trying to find him and he didn’t want to be found. And that’s what drove him to take new identities. The fact is he also had to have known that he was here as an illegal alien and that he ran the risk of being deported.”

That, Horowitz said, may actually be the greatest irony, the greatest sadness from his point of view.

“He wanted to be an American. He knew that he had to live a careful life, a good life because if he didn’t, there was the possibility, the likelihood that he would have to leave. And, from all indications, he did live a good life. I spoke with his lawyer who told me about all the people he had touched, all the people who were offering testimony on his behalf. He built a real life for himself.”

“The problem, the irony,” Horowitz said, “is that by leading such a good life, he has put himself in a real dilemma. He faces charges of aggravated identity theft, which is an anti terrorism law that gives prosecutors very little leeway when it comes to granting leniency. And by leading such a good life, he’s got absolutely nothing to offer prosecutors and faces the very real likelihood that he will have to go to prison and then be thrown out of the country.”

“A TERRIBLE SADNESS”

Horowitz said that’s what makes the situation so hard for him, his wife and Krastev’s parents.

“On one hand, we are so very glad he is alive. We are so glad that he was able to build such a good life. On the other hand, there is such a terrible sadness as to how it is going to end up.”

Horowitz also makes it very clear that he understands that in assuming the identities of others, Krastev committed crimes. And while he understand that the family of Jason Evers, the murdered boy from Ohio whose identity Krastev assumed, feels violated, he thinks there is another way to look at it.

“I know this might be hard but I think that, if for a second, they could look at it not as Doitchin stole their son’s identity but that the boy’s tragic death allowed Doitchin to live life as American, maybe they won’t feel quite so violated.”

Horowitz knows that might be a long shot.

“Right now we’re still trying to figure it all out and figure out what the next steps are going to be and when we can see him. There are so many emotions at play.”

Remembering Mailer

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

This was a piece I wrote just over four years ago for The New York Sun (it can be found here) and was a delight to report and write. I met him in his townhouse in Brooklyn. I was supposed to have about 15-20 minutes with him and we ended up talking for two hours. Mailer was having trouble getting around. and frail physically but mentally – sharp as can be. What I really like was his comments about Obama, who had just announced his candidacy.

Norman Mailer didn’t set out to write a novel about Adolf Hitler.

“I was finally going to do the second volume of “Harlot’s Ghost” [his novel about the CIA] that I had been promising all these years,” he said, sitting on the top floor of his brownstone in Brooklyn with its expansive views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan.

“I had an interesting notion that Harlot was going to be very interested in Carl Jung and that was going to be the intellectual vibration of the book. And then a week or two before I was going to start writing, it was as if another muse appeared in the doorway, crooked her finger, and said, ‘No, no, no. You come with me.” And I suddenly realized I wanted to write about Hitler.”

It wasn’t that the topic was new to Mr. Mailer, whose novel “The Castle in the Forest,” comes out this week.

“My Mother, who was fairly smart, was obsessed with Hitler,” he remembers. “Ever since I was nine she was talking about Hitler and how he was going to try and kill all the Jews. Even when the so-called experts were talking about how Hitler would mature, she knew otherwise.”

Mr. Mailer, who was nine in 1932, says that the work of one man deserves credit above and beyond for spurring him on: Ron Rosenbaum, author of “Explaining Hitler.”

“The book,” Mr. Mailer said, “stimulated the hell out of me, absolutely knocked me out when I read it. My mind began to race with all the possibilities about Hitler and at a certain point, I finally realized I had a lot to say about Hitler.”

Mr. Mailer points out that there hasn’t been a lot written in English about Hitler’s youth, which gave him an opening.

“There was some real room to write a novel there,” he says. “And then I got the real happy notion to have a devil write it. And, after that, it was just a matter of writing for a couple of years.”

One part of the book that has attracted attention Mr. Mailer hadn’t expected is the bibliography he includes at the end.

“I don’t know what got everybody so upset about,” he said. “It seemed like the perfectly decent, natural thing to do. You’ve read all these books why not give the people who wrote them, if they happen to come across the bibliography, the pleasure of seeing their name in print. What’s so terrible about that?

“I wasn’t saying, look at me, I’m a serious writer. I take it for granted that I’m a serious writer.”

As for other serious writers, Mr. Mailer knows they are out there (“I hear Dave Eggers is wonderful,” he said), but doesn’t read nearly as much as he used to.

“I almost don’t read anyone anymore,” he said. “The older I get, the more sensitive I’ve become to good writing. It stimulates me immensely, and then I go off in all sorts of directions thinking about how I would’ve done it. And my mind races and it distracts me from my own work. And so I rarely read a good writer anymore.”

As Mr. Mailer talks, he is faced away from the window with its stunning views: a concession, he said to old age.

“My eyes are giving out, one of the reasons I don’t read as much,” he says. “And the light bothers me tremendously.”

While Mr. Mailer isn’t able to enjoy the view as much as he used to — he now only spends about 20 days a year in New York and considers Provincetown his primary residence — he still thinks of himself as a New Yorker.

“Spiritually, I’m a New Yorker,” he said. “I always have been, I grew up in Brooklyn, after all. If you grow up in Brooklyn, you’re a New Yorker ipso facto.”

Mr. Mailer said as much as he loves New York, it’s no longer the best place for him.

“It’s a two-sided issue. On one hand, I absolutely miss New York,” he said. “On the other hand, I’m too old for it. It used to be that my wife and I could go out for dinner, stay out, and I’d get up the next morning and work. If I’m out at night these days, I’m no longer ready to work the next morning.”

Not only does Mr. Mailer describe himself as a New Yorker spiritually and historically, he once ran for mayor with columnist Jimmy Breslin as his running mate.

“Looking back on it, there was something highly comic about the whole thing,” he said. “Not at the time, of course. Breslin and I worked as hard as we ever worked. One of my favorite remarks at the time was that my mother didn’t raise me to work this hard. The press thought it was a lark, but it wasn’t a lark. It was a bone-depleting journey.”

“What is comic about it, what I find comic about it, was how little political sense I had compared to how much political sense I thought I had. What I didn’t understand was that a freshman doesn’t run for president of the fraternity.”

Mr. Mailer said that Senator Obama of Illinois shouldn’t read too much into that.

“While I was very proud that I came up with that after the election, of course, soon after, Jimmy Carter comes along, and he’s a freshman, and he gets elected president. “So, of course, one of the rules of politics is that there are no rules.”

As for Senator Obama, Mr. Mailer said that he hasn’t followed him too closely but that since “everyone is so enthusiastic about him, my feeling has been just to sit back and wait. He might be very good. He might not. The true test is going to be now that he’s going to run he’s going to have to make statements and people are going to be coming to him and going away from him.

“And that’s where the art of the politician comes in. Can he make statements in such a way that more people come to him than go away from him.”

As for one of Mr. Obama’s anticipated major rivals — Senator Clinton — Mr. Mailer said “she’s probably earned the job as much as anyone on the Democratic side.

However, he adds, “She has that funny publicity problem. Personally, she’s charming, but that’s not the public perception of her. And I don’t know how you overcome that.”

One the Republican side, Mr. Mailer sees Senator McCain as “formidable” but warns Mr. McCain to expect to see what he calls the “ugly, very ugly” picture of him embracing President Bush used widely against him. But, Mr. Mailer says, he doesn’t know if the Democrats would use it.

As for Mr. Bush, Mr. Mailer does not have kind words, referring to him as “nasty and stupid.”

Mailer also said that Mr. Bush, whom he believes is “not deep enough to be evil,” is a “social phenomenon,” the product of a shopping, marketing-oriented society.

“People believe that buying things is one of the most significant acts they can take, and that is the handmaiden to stupidity. The country has become more and stupid over the past 15 to 20 years, and George Bush is the fruit, the flower, of that tendency.”

Despite his misgivings on the country’s intelligence, Mr. Mailer is not entirely pessimistic. After all, he does dedicate his new novel to his grandchildren, an optimistic sign.

“I am a pessimist with occasional optimistic tendencies,” he said. “I tend to be a pessimist. That way when I get good news, I’m more uplifted. If you are start off as an optimist, you find yourself more easily disappointed.”

Mr. Mailer — whose life has included an incident in which he stabbed his wife and a controversy over a person he helped get out of prison who then committed a murder — said that while he has regrets “they are not something I discuss publicly.”

One regret he does not have is losing the race for mayor in 1969.

“The city went bankrupt soon after, and if Jimmy and I had won, they would have blamed us,” he said. “It’s like we had a guardian angel watching over us. While at the time, we thought we were walking into bullets, it turns out we were dodging a big bullet.”

And, for now, Mr. Mailer has his work to keep him busy.

“Work more important than anything,” he said. “It’s onerous in one’s middle years but a blessing when you’re old.”

Mr. Mailer said one project he once very much wanted to finish was a trilogy of books, of which only the first one ever got written.

“Ancient Evenings” was supposed to be part one of a series that dealt with the past, present and future. It was the third book that brought an end to the idea. It was to be set on a spaceship with a few select humans, with Earth no longer around, looking for a new planet.

“I realized I no longer had the mental equipment to tackle science fiction.”

In the meantime, Mr. Mailer says, he hopes to write a second novel about Hitler.

“I’m not going to promise it because at my age you can’t. If I last long enough there will be a second volume.”

As for the sequel to “Harlot’s Ghost,” the book he promised to write but from which he got diverted to write about Hitler?

“I’m afraid that’s one promise I won’t keep,” he said.