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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.”

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.”

TSA & Company Explain That Queasy Feeling

In Crime, Politics, World on March 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The occasion was yet another Congressional hearing on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner — the House Judiciary Committee meeting on the topic of “Sharing and Analyzing Information to Prevent Terrorism.”

Testifying were:

Timothy Healy, the director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center;

Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management at the State Department;

Patricia Cogswell, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary (kind of sounds like the title they give someone from the temp agency) in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy;

And, the person with one of my favorite titles — Russell Travers, the Deputy Director for Information Sharing and Knowledge Development at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Why do I like his title? Because it implies there is actually someone in charge of learning (knowledge development, no?) and sharing that information when clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In the case of each person’s testimony they basically thank the committee for “inviting” them, describe all the great security measures that have been put in place since 9/11, tell the committee why nothing really worked — to some degree why it wasn’t their fault — and then tell the committee how committed their agency/department is to keeping America safe.

For instance, Travers told the committee that “the incident does not raise major information sharing issues” but the government “needs to look at overall standards — those required to get on watchlists in general, and the No Fly and Selectee List in particular” and “The US Government needs to prove its overall ability to piece together partial, fragmentary information from multiple collectors.”

He finished by saying:

“The men and women of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Intelligence Community are committed to fighting terrorism at home and abroad, and will seek every opportunity to better our analytical tradecraft, more aggressively pursue those that plan and perpetrate acts of terrorism, and effectively enhance the criteria used to keep known or suspected terrorists out of the United States.”

Of course.

Healy, of the FBI, told the committee that the people who work at Terrorist Screening Center are “committed to protecting the American public from terrorist threats while simultaneously protecting privacy and safeguarding civil liberties” as they manage the terrorist watch list but that they rely on their partners in law enforcement and intelligence to nominate people for the lists.

He finished by repeating what was his real theme:

“We have a standing commitment to improve our operational processes, to enhance our human capital and technological capabilities, and to continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats while protecting privacy and safeguarding their civil liberties.”

Then there’s the testimony of Cogswell who, as expected, begins by talking about how her Department and its partners are: determined to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat terrorist networks by employing multiple layers of defense that work in concert with one another to secure our country.”

She then lays out all the security measures put in place since September 11 — none of which really made a difference on Christmas — and then claimed how on Christmas “the attack on board the flight failed in no small part due to the brave actions of the crew and passengers aboard the plane.”

Actually, it was ENTIRELY because of the passengers and crew.

Anyway, I’m flying tomorrow and again on Tuesday and would feel a lot better about the whole thing if these guys could actually appear before Congress and say something positive that doesn’t stink of spin.

Bank Robberies Still Big Business

In Crime on March 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm
Mug shot of John Dillinger

Image via Wikipedia

Last year’s release of Public Enemies, which told the story of John Dillinger, showed that the people still have a thing for bank robbers.

Early Monday, the FBI released further evidence of that.

While their annual report on bank crime showed that bank thefts were down about ten percent from 2008 to 009, it also shows that there were 6,065 bank violations (robberies, burglaries, larcenies, etc) in which $45.9 million was stolen.

Of that, less than $8 million was recovered.

The report says most incidents occurred on Friday, followed by Monday, Tyesday, Wednesday and then Friday. I guess people were usually looking for some extra cash for the weekend.

Most of the incidents occurred between 9AM and 11AM, followed very closely by 11AM and 1PM and 3 PM to 6PM.

Violence rarely occurred during incidents (only 4 percent of the time) though there were 21 deaths during incidents — each victim being a perpetrator. Most of the time, the robber made an oral demand for money (3,368 times) and roughly the same amount of times (3,269 times) a note was passed.

A firearm was used 1,619 times though about half as many times (2,553 times) use of a weapon was threatened.

More bank robberies occurred in Texas — 484 — than in all of the New England states (309) combined.

Most perpetrators were black males (3,147) followed by white males (2,796); Only 44 were female hispanics.

Judge Throws Out 9/11 Settlement

In Crime, Politics on March 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

Eight days after a tentative deal was reached to create a $657.5 million settlement fund to compensate thousands of rescue and cleanup workers who toiled at Ground Zero, the judge overseeing the case has ordered the parties back to the bargaining table.

“In my judgement, this settlement is not enough,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein told lawyers Friday afternoon. “I will not preside over a settlement based on fear or ignorance.”

Hellerstein also criticized the part of the settlement that would give lawyers a third, saying it should be less and it should come not from the settlement but from the WTC Captive Insurance Fund, which was set up with a $1 billion grant from the federal government.

“I will fix the reasonableness of the fee and the fee will be payable by the captive insurance fund,” he said.

The head of the fund, Christine LaSala, reacted to the judge’s order by seeming to demonize it and play upon the fear of the families, which was exactly what Hellerstein had warned against.

“I am very disappointed that the judge has now made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the people bringing these claims to obtain fair, timely and just compensation, a settlement that they have long waited for.”

Hellerstein’s decision was also a blow to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg who had praised the settlement, saying:

“This settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances.”

Maybe not.

Several workers praised Hellerstein’s decision.

“I was real proud of the judge, former cop Richard Vole told The New York Post. “I think he showed a lot of compassion and I think he showed a lot of bravery.”

Indeed.

Deal Close on Closing Gitmo

In Crime, Politics on March 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which is reporting that Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham has been working with Democrats Carl Levin, Ben Cardin and Dick Durbin. The paper also reports that two unnamed Republicans are prepared to go along with the deal.

The Journal says that as part of the deal more detainees — including 9/11 Mastermind Khallid Shaikh Mohammed — will be tried before military commissions.

Curiously, ten days ago, The New York Times reported a similar deal was in the works but that Graham was without support from Republican colleagues, leading the ACLU to throw an ocean-full of cold water on the idea.

So, what’s changed? Not really clear.

My only hope — and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — is that before they close Guantanamo, they figure out why four people died there — were they murdered?

The Shame of the United States in Seven Paragraphs

In Crime, Politics, World on February 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

“Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Those are the words ending the seventh of seven paragraphs declassified yesterday by a judge in the United Kingdom describing the treatment of Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian national and British resident who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.

He was held in secret prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being moved to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004 where he stayed until February of last year when he was released without ever being charged.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mohammed in a lawsuit looking to hold people accountable for his rendition, while in custody, Mohammed:

“was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of “ghost laughter,” thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children.”

After being released, Mohammed sought whatever information the British had about his treatment. It boiled down to a battle over a seven paragraph summary of his treatment.

Even after British courts ruled the paragraphs must be released, the United States warned Britain not to do it, saying they would curb the exchange of information between the two countries if the information was released.

What’s sort of — but I guess shouldn’t be — astounding is that the United States tried to keep the seven paragraphs suppressed even after much about Mohammed’s treatment was detailed in court papers.

As the British court wrote in paragraph 55 of their decision:

“There is no secret about the treatment to which Mr. Mohammed was subjected while in the control of the US. Authorities. We are no longer dealing with the allegations of torture and ill-treatment; they have been established in the judgment of the court, publicly revealed by the judicial process within the USA itself.

So, now that the details of Mr. Mohammed’s treatment were detailed in the US Courts and reaffirmed by the British Courts, what was the reaction of the United States to the release of the seven paragraphs?

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair released a statement saying the British decision was “not helpful” and “creates additional challenges” but the two countries will persevere.

Not a word about Mohammed and how he was treated but at least our priorities are in order.

As for the seven paragraphs, here they are:

“It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Oh! That Federal Judge…

In Crime, Politics on February 9, 2010 at 11:40 am

The Obama Administration has taken a lot of criticism over the decision to charge attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab criminally.

And clearly, the administration could have handled some aspects differently.

But some of it has just been over the top to the point of you have to wonder about the well-being of some of the people speaking.

One of the strongest — or rather, loudest — critics has been Mitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky and the Republican leader of the Senate.

In a recent speech before the Heritage Foundation, McConnell ripped into the administration over its handling of Abdulmutallab, saying they were more concerned with  “reading him his Miranda Rights and getting him an attorney” than treating him as “a terrorist who could provide us with vital information to stop new attacks” and that Americans were “outraged” by that.

Of course, it turned out that despite warnings to the contrary, Abdulmutallab has been cooperating with investigators.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to McConnell, answering many of his criticisms, pointing out that the policies and practices used to determine the treatment of Abdulmutallab were consistent with what what done under the Bush Administration and that those policies “were not criticized when employed by previous Administrations.”

In other words, Um… Senator? Is it possible your criticisms are linked to the fact there’s now a Democrat in the White House and not a member of your own party?

Of course, McConnell wouldn’t be the first forget about the reality of the situation and try and score points for purely political reasons.

Holder goes on to write that “without a single exception” the US Government has — since Stptember 11th, 1001 — arrested and detained “under federal criminal law all terrorist suspects who are apprehended inside the United States.

He points out that in 2003, President Bush signed a policy directive stating: “the Attorney General has lead responsibility for criminal investigations of terrorist acts or terrorist threats by individuals or groups inside the United States.”

And — “the Bush Administration used the criminal justice system to convict more than 300 individuals on terrorism related charges” including Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber who “was advised of his of his right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney within five minutes of being removed from the aircraft.”

Meanwhile, former Federal Judge and Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Abdulmutallab should have been held in military custody, supposedly giving the administration more time to interrogate him and decide what to do about charging him.

The only problem, Holder points out, is that “the government’s legal authority” to hold someone “indefinitely without providing him access to an attorney” is “far from clear” and that “when the Bush Administration attempted to deny Jose Padilla access to an attorney, a federal judge in new York rejected that position, ruling that Padilla must be allowed to meet with his lawyer.”

Now, who was that judge?

Holder writes: “Notably, the judge in that case was Michael Mukasey.”

Oh. That Federal Judge.

Hypocrisy of O'Keefe Defenders Apparently Knows No Bounds

In Crime, Politics on February 2, 2010 at 8:33 am

From the moment James O’Keefe started his investigation of ACORN — some may prefer to call it a hit job or smear but I’m willing to give the benefit of a doubt as, apparently, he got some people to say some really dumb things — people were hopping mad about them, using his videos to accuse them of all sorts of crimes.

There were calls for an independent prosecutor.

There was an attempt to ban them from receiving federal funds — a ban that was later ruled unconstitutional.

There was not, however, anyone pointing from the Right pointing out that Acorn, regardless of how guilty the might look in O’Keefe’s videos, was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Last week, O’Keefe was arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones of Senator Mary Landrieu.

Many outlets — myself included — referred to the incident as an attempted bugging.

What I was careful to do though was point out that O’Keefe is innocent until proven guilty and that the presumption of innocence was a courtesy he never extended to his targets.

I bring it up again because last night, Andrew Breitbart, one of O’Keefe’s biggest supporters was on Fox News saying that O’Keefe was arrested as part of a payback scheme and that it’s all part of a concerted effort to make O’Keefe look bad.

Ben Stein, who was once a smart commentator capable of a brilliant film role before he became a shill for a credit report scam, also jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon.

And O’Keefe himself told Sean Hannity last night that he was the victim of “journalistic malpractice” and is considering suing.

A big difference between the charges against O’Keefe and the accusations against Acorn is that O’Keefe was charged with federal crimes. Acorn was accused of wrongdoing by people pursuing a political agenda.

O’Keefe and his supporters are now crying that he has railroaded and people need to wait for the charges to play out because he will be shown to be innocenet.

Well, where were they when they treated Acorn with a tenth (rough estimate) of the respect they are demanding be shown for O’Keefe?

If there goal is to obfuscate and see who can scream the loudest, they are doing a great job.

If there goal is to engage in meaningful political debate, they have fallen far short.

The thing is, they might have legitimate points but the more they scream and act like hypocrites, the less credibility they have.

Watch out! No! Over there! Or there! There!

In Crime, World on January 30, 2010 at 9:55 am

Ever feel like everybody’s trying to kill you?

Well, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, your concern may be justified.

Speaking before the House Committee on Homeland Security earlier this week, the center’s director, Michael Leiter (no apparent relation to Al Leiter), told the committee that 350 people a day are added to the terrorist watch list.

That’s 127,750 people a year.

And even though some 27,000 people have been removed from the list over time, there were still about 500,000 on the list as of January 2009.

So, maybe not everyone’s trying to kill you but, according to the government, it certainly seems a lot of people are.

I think I’ll stay indoors today.