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Tuesday, 10 September 2013 13:58

FBI asks for help to identify the "I-55 Bandit"

The FBI is reaching out to the public to help ID the suspect in ten bank robberies that span five states.

The so-called "I-55 Bandit" has robbed or attempted to rob banks in Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The suspect is described as a white male in his early to mid 20s with a thin build. He has short brown or strawberry blonde hair and stands about 6′-6’3″ tall. All of the banks he targeted in the metro area were along Interstate 55. The FBI is accepting tips by phone atl 1-800-225-5324 or visit FBI.gov

 

Published in Local News

   The FBI is investigating a former metro-east official accused of embezzling more than $750,000 over the last 10 years.  

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an audit by Alton accounting firm Kenneth E. Loy & Co., LLC has determined that former Moro Township Supervisor Donald Flack embezzled more than $100,000 last year alone.  But exactly how much was taken won't be known until the forensic audit is completed in September.  

   Auditors say charges against Flack are likely to be filed soon.

   Flack resigned May 14th when trustees confronted him about the missing funds.  

   Moro Township covers a rural area of Madison County northeast of Alton.

Published in Local News

   SAN DIEGO (AP) — A close family friend suspected of abducting a 16 year old girl after killing her mother and younger brother fired his rifle at FBI agents before they killed him deep in the Idaho wilderness, authorities said Monday.

   Hannah Anderson didn't know her mother and brother were dead until she was rescued from 40 year old James Lee DiMaggio, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

   "I can't make it any clearer: She was a victim in this case. She was not a willing participant," Gore said at a news conference with Hannah's father, Brett Anderson.

   During a shootout with the FBI, DiMaggio fired at least once and perhaps twice, the sheriff said.

   Hannah Anderson reunited with family in San Diego to begin what her father said would be a slow recovery. He thanked the horseback riders who reported seeing the pair near an alpine lake, saying the search might have taken much longer without them.

   "She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal," said Brett Anderson, who declined to answer questions and pleaded for privacy.

   Christopher Saincome, Hannah's grandfather, said his son-in-law wanted to take Hannah with him to Tennessee, where he recently moved. Saincome told him that she should stay in the San Diego area, where she was raised and has a large circle of friends.

   "I think she needs to be here with friends," Saincome said. "I know she's taking it very tough. One of her best friends is with her, talking to her."

   Gore declined to address how Hannah's mother and brother died, describe Hannah's captivity or say whether she tried to escape. The sheriff also refused to discuss the rescue or how many times DiMaggio was shot, other than to say the suspect is believed to have fired first and that Hannah was nearby.

   Gore said the crime was "not spur of the moment" but would not elaborate. Sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser said last week that investigators believe DiMaggio may have had an "unusual infatuation" with the girl.

   DiMaggio is suspected of killing 44 year old Christina Anderson and 8 year old Ethan Anderson and leaving their bodies in his burning home near San Diego on Aug. 4. Hannah's disappearance triggered a massive search in much of the western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico that ended with Saturday's shootout and rescue.

   A DiMaggio family friend, Andrew Spanswick, said the suspect appears to have followed in his father's footsteps in a carefully laid plan. His house burned down exactly 15 years after his father disappeared. Saturday's shootout came exactly 15 years after his father committed suicide.

   The younger DiMaggio "clearly had a death wish," Spanswick said.

   The father, James Everet DiMaggio, was arrested after breaking into the home of his ex-girlfriend in 1988, wearing a ski mask and a carrying a sawed-off shotgun and handcuffs, Spanswick said. The former girlfriend wasn't home, but DiMaggio held her 16 year daughter and her boyfriend at gunpoint. The girl escaped after asking to use the bathroom.

   The elder DiMaggio was imprisoned for a separate attack and died in 1998 after consuming a large amount of methamphetamine intravenously and walking into the desert.

   The massive search for Hannah Anderson probably would have taken longer if a sharp-eyed retired sheriff and three other horseback riders in the rugged backcountry hadn't seen the pair Wednesday. Gore called it the "key event" in the search.

   Mark John, who retired as a Gem County sheriff in 1996, shared his suspicions with the Idaho State Police after encountering DiMaggio and the girl on the trail. That enabled investigators to focus efforts on a specific portion of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a roadless 3,600-square-mile preserve in the heart of Idaho.

   "They just didn't fit," said John, 71. "He might have been an outdoorsman in California, but he was not an outdoorsman in Idaho. ... Red flags kind of went up."

   Initially, it was the lack of openness on the trail and a reluctance to engage in the polite exchange of banter like so many other recreationists John has encountered during horseback excursions.

   The riders were puzzled why Anderson and DiMaggio were hiking in the opposite direction of their stated destination, the Salmon River.

   But more than anything, it was their gear — or lack of it. Neither was wearing hiking boots or rain gear. DiMaggio, described as an avid hiker in his home state of California, was toting only a light pack. It even appeared Anderson was wearing pajama bottoms.

   The riders had a second encounter Wednesday, this one at the lake as they were getting ready to head back down the trail.

   But it wasn't until Thursday afternoon when the Johns returned home and saw the girl's photographs on the news that they made a connection and notified police.

   On Friday, police found DiMaggio's car, hidden under brush at a trailhead on the border of the wilderness area. A day later, searchers spotted the pair by air, and two FBI hostage teams moved in on the camp at Morehead Lake, about 8 miles inside the wilderness border and 40 miles east of the central Idaho town of Cascade.

   Rescue teams were dropped by helicopter about 2 1/2 hours away from where Anderson and DiMaggio were spotted by the lake, said FBI spokesman Jason Pack. The team had to hike with up to 100 pounds of tactical gear along a rough trail characterized by steep switchbacks and treacherous footing.

   DiMaggio was extraordinarily close to the family, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice.

___

Dvorak reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writers Julie Watson in San Diego, Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles, and Rebecca Boone in Cascade, Idaho, contributed to this report.

Published in National News

3 St. Louis children were rescued as part of a nationwide crackdown on child prostitution.

The FBI announced today that the sting was carried out over the last three days and resulted in 150 arrests and the recovery of 105 kids. An FBI spokesperson said this is a reminder that child prostitution can happen anywhere.

There were no arrests made as part of the sting in St. Louis.

The complete breakdown of the sweep can be found here.

Published in Local News

   A member of the St. Louis Major Case Squad is in FBI custody.  

   Federal agents had asked East St. Louis Detective Orlando Ward to come to the federal building Tuesday afternoon.  A city spokesperson says about 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night the FBI called and asked them to pickup Ward’s police car.  

   There's no word on why Ward was taken into custody or if any charges are pending.

   City officials are very concerned that criminal allegations against Ward could put some convictions in doubt since the long-time detective has been a key investigator in many high profile criminal cases.

Published in Local News

   The F.B.I. has taken over the investigation after metro-east authorities allegedly found bomb-making materials at a rural O'Fallon home.  

   The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department searched the home of an O'Fallon Township High School student using bomb sniffing dogs Wednesday afternoon.  There's no word what led to the search at the home in the 900 block of Scott Troy Road.  

   O’Fallon Township High School was locked down for about an hour and a half while the school was searched.  Police say the action was precautionary because there had been no threat against the school.  

   O'Fallon Police questioned a student who lives in the home where the bomb-making materials were allegedly found, along with several of his friends.  The student who lives in the home was arrested.  There's no word yet on charges.

Published in Local News
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has referred to the FBI the case of the laboratory where one of five vials of a deadly Venezuelan virus went missing, an official from the CDC told ABCNews.com.

"CDC reported the incident to the FBI and we understand that the FBI will initiate an investigation concerning the reported incident," Dr. Rob Weyant, director of the CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins, told ABCNews.com in an email. "Since the investigation is just underway, the agency will not comment further regarding details of this incident."

The FBI would not confirm it was investigating the incident at the Galveston National Laboratory.

"The FBI does not confirm nor deny the existence of investigations" as a matter of policy, said Shauna A. Dunlap, a media coordinator for the FBI Houston Division.

A lab spokesman said he did not think the FBI was investigating, but rather that the FBI was monitoring the lab's ongoing investigation.

The CDC can make a referral to the FBI if it finds "possible violations involving criminal negligence or a suspicious activity or person to the FBI for further investigation," according to 2007 congressional testimony from Dr. Richard Besser, who directed the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response at the time. He is now ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

The biolab realized the vial went missing on March 21 because it was preparing for its annual CDC inspection for the week of March 25, Weyant said. Prior to the inspection, the CDC visited in January 2012.

The last time the vial was used was November 2012, University of Texas Medical Branch spokesman Raul Reyes told ABCNews.com. The University of Texas Medical Branch owns the $174 million biolab, which was designed with the strictest security measures to hold the deadliest viruses in the country.

Only one scientist worked with the virus, and Reyes said the lab suspects that scientist accidentally threw the vial away in November.

"We have determined, and the CDC has agreed, that this never was a public health risk," Reyes told ABCNews.com, adding that people who accessed the lab underwent intense background checks and had to go through many layers of security each day.

"If a bad person were intent on weaponizing this type of virus," Reyes said, "it would be much simpler to fly down to Venezuela, go into the field and collect a specimen."

Violation of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 can result in up to five years imprisonment, up to a $250,000 penalty for an individual or up to $500,000 for a group, Weyant said.

"As of March 26, 2013, CDC has referred 18 entities to the HHS inspector general for failure to comply with the select agent regulations resulting in over $2 million in monetary penalties," Weyant said.

Like Ebola, the missing Guanarito virus causes hemorrhagic fever, which involves "bleeding under the skin, in internal organs or from body orifices like the mouth, eyes, or ears," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is clearly an incident that is very discomforting and embarrassing to the University of Texas Medical Center and their national biosecurity lab that they have there," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. "You can be sure there are a lot of sweating people down the chain at that institution."

Fortunately, losing a vial of Guanarito is not as threatening as losing a vial of anthrax, said Schaffner, a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. The virus could theoretically spread between humans, but it usually only spreads between rodents in Venezuela.

Researchers don't believe the virus can survive in rodents in the U.S., according to a statement from David Callender, president of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Still, the virus has caused "at least several hundred cases" of human disease in regions where it is common, said NIH's director of the Office of Biodefense Research Affairs, Michael Kurilla.

"The mortality is anywhere from at least 10 to 20 percent or slightly more," Kurilla told ABCNews.com, adding that there is no treatment or cure for Guanarito. "That is considered very, very severe if you have a 1 in 5 chance of dying without anything to do for the person other than provide supportive hospital care."

Kurilla said the Galveston biolab requires the most stringent safety measures because it studies biosafetly level BSL-4 materials, or dangerous infectious diseases that have no vaccines or cures. BSL-4 materials include Guanarit, Ebola and smallpox.

The Galveston researchers were conducting a routine inspection on March 20 and 21 when they noticed there were only four Guanarito vials instead of five. They announced the lapse on March 23.

The university does not believe this was the result of a security breach or any wrongdoing, but it notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All solid waste in BSL-4 labs is typically disposed of via a pressurized heating process that destroys hazardous materials without allowing the liquid to boil away, Kurilla said. As such, it's unlikely that investigators will be able to determine and prove whether this is what actually happened to the vial.

It's possible investigators will find the clerical error that led to the accidental disposal, but with computerized record keeping, it's less likely that vial numbers were transposed and the error can be easily traced, Kurilla said.

Schaffner agreed.

"I suspect that they may not ever be able to account for it if it was that kind of human error," Schaffner said. "This is a record-keeping issue, which means it was a human issue, which means doing that kind of tedious, important work, there was just a momentary slip up."
Published in National News
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Police say the seven children who have been missing since Saturday from their home in Fresno have been found safe with their father.

They were located Thursday at their father's home in Sacramento by an FBI task force.

Fresno police Sgt. Jaime Rios tell the Fresno Bee that the children were unharmed and in good spirits.

The father, Xa Yang, had been estranged from his family for three years.

Police say that the children were left in the care of their father. Rios says that Fresno and Sacramento police departments will investigate to determine if a crime was committed.
Published in National News
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