Man who fled the United States in 2005 pleads guilty to environmental fire conspiracies

Nearly two decades after fleeing the United States, a man from Seattle affiliated with extremist environmental groups pleaded guilty in a federal court last week to conspiracy to commit arson at commercial and state-owned animal processing plants in Oregon and California, federal prosecutors said.

The man, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, now 53, fled the country in 2005 and was first indicted in 2006 by a federal jury in Oregon. Prosecutors said Mr. Dibee’s pending criminal case in the western district of Washington was resolved by his confession of guilt on Thursday.

Dibee conspired with at least 15 other members of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front to damage commercial and state-owned animal processing facilities with improvised explosives composed of ingredients, including fuel-filled milk jugs and model rocket lighters, according to the court. Documents.

Members of the groups, referred to as the family, vowed to keep their identities secret for law enforcement. They monitored the locations they were targeting and ignited time-delayed explosives to ignite fires.

From 1995 to 2001, the family was involved in more than 40 criminal acts amounting to more than $ 45 million in damages, prosecutors said. One of the members’ most significant arson attacks took place in October 1998 at the Vail Ski Resort in Oregon, causing an estimated $ 26 million in damage, according to the FBI.

The Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front were described in 2004 by John E. Lewis, then deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as “the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States” and a “serious domestic terrorist threat.” Founded in the UK in the mid-1970s, ALF used “violent tactics” and engaged in “direct actions” against people or entities that the group believed were abusing animals, said Mr. Lewis at the time in remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In court documents, Mr. Dibee is named as a participant in three attacks in three different states: the destruction of a meat packing plant in Redmond, Ore., In 1997; a 1998 fire at a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection facility in Olympia, Washington, which members said was part of “the great cleansing process” to stop “this war on wildlife and nature”; and an attempt in 2001 to burn down a state-owned facility that had been used to remove wild horses from public areas near Litchfield, California.

In December 2005, Mr Dibee fled the United States to evade arrest ahead of federal prosecution in Oregon, the eastern district of California and the western district of Washington, which followed a domestic terror investigation led by the FBI, federal prosecutors said.

The FBI previously suspected that Mr Dibee may have fled to Syria. Thirteen years later, in the summer of 2018, he was arrested by local authorities in Cuba before boarding a plane en route to Russia and being returned to the United States.

“From destroying evidence to fleeing the country, none of Mr. Dibee’s tactics prevented us from ensuring that he was held accountable for his malicious and destructive actions,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, an FBI specialty agent in Oregon.

Mr. Dibee, through his attorney Matthew Schindler, declined to comment.

In an interview last year with Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mr. Dibee Government’s labeling of his criminal charges as domestic terrorism.

“In most cases, where the government accuses terrorism, it actually is not,” said Mr. Dibee to Oregon Public Broadcasting, adding that he was more “receptive” to this accusation as an Arab man living in America. In the interview, he also denied having been involved in any organized environmental groups.

“The reality is that I’m an environmentalist and someone decided to say I’m part of an organization that does not exist,” he said.

Prosecutors said Mr Dibee would pay compensation to his victims – as determined by the government and ordered by the court – and that their recommended sentence was 87 months in federal prison. Mr. Dibee will be convicted in July by Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court in Oregon.

Josephine Sunshine Overaker, one of Mr. Dibee’s many accomplices are still on the run, prosecutors said. She is believed to have fled to Europe in late 2001, and she faces 19 charges of crime in Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

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