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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Wendy Olson

Federal grand jury indicts 14 on gang-related drug, firearms charges

A federal grand jury in Boise has indicted 14 gang members and associates of the Norteno, or Northside gang, which is active in Nampa and other parts of the Treasure Valley, for multiple crimes including trafficking in methamphetamine, conspiracy and gun violations. Federal drug trafficking charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million.

It’s the sixth major gang prosecution investigated by the multi-agency Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crime Task Force, which includes federal, state and local authorities, since 2009. “These charges mark a significant point in the Metro Task Force’s thorough and aggressive efforts to combat gang violence and drug trafficking in Treasure Valley communities,” said Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho. “Violent street gang members and their associates who engage in criminal conduct have clear and fair notice that law enforcement will identify them, investigate them and bring them to justice. Public safety demands this strong response.” You can read her full announcement here.

Nampa man gets 9 months in prison for stealing rocks - lots of them - from public land

A Nampa man has been sentenced to nine months in prison for stealing rocks from BLM land, and not just any rocks. Brian Kirkpatrick, 46, pleaded guilty to stealing more than 9,800 pounds of sandstone from federal BLM property to sell commercially for use in landscaping projects. He had a similar federal offense in 2009, and is currently in state prison on related state charges. “Protecting Idaho’s public lands is a priority for my office,” said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson. “Public lands are just that: They are there for the public to enjoy. This prosecution hopefully sends a strong message that my office will prosecute those who illegally exploit public lands for their own gain.” Kirkpatrick's conviction is for theft of government property.

Five Idahoans indicted in spice bust, authorities say major national player has been taken out

Five people from Boise and Meridian have been indicted on federal charges for smuggling, money laundering, and selling “spice,” a synthetic marijuana product, and authorities say they were operating across the nation. “This investigation has taken out a major player in the synthetic drug industry who was operating coast to coast,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Criminal drug organizations prey on our youth to line their pockets with millions of dollars in drug proceeds. This emerging industry poses a significant threat to our communities and regardless of how they are marketed, we will continue with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue them.”

Click below for a full news release from U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson; the indictment by a federal grand jury in Boise was unsealed yesterday. The indictments are the result of a joint operation by an array of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. “Although we don't yet know the full toll that these substances that mimic cannabis have taken on users, we do know that emergency room workers, parents and law enforcement officers have terrifying stories of medically dangerous and sometimes deadly reactions,” Olson said. “I commend all of the agencies and prosecutors who spent countless hours bringing the investigation to this point.”

DBSI chief, 3 executives indicted

A federal grand jury in Idaho has indicted the former president and three top executives of a failed Boise-area real estate company on charges that they misled investors and conspired to dupe them out of millions of dollars during the economic downturn, the Associated Press reports. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced the indictment Wednesday against Douglas L. Swenson, who was the founder and president of DBSI Inc. and a group of other related companies; click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

U.S. Attorney’s office collects 10 times its budget in fines, forfeitures, debts

Idaho's U.S. Attorney's office has set a record by collecting more than $84 million in fines, restitution, civil debt and criminal forefeitures in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That includes $3.2 million from criminal fines, assessments and restitution; $79.4 million in civil debts, and $1.7 million in asset forefeitures. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson noted that the total is more than 10 times her office's annual budget. A big chunk of the collections came from Hecla Mining pursuant to a settlement involving the Bunker Hill Superfund site in the Coeur d’Alene Basin. Click below for the U.S. Attorney's full announcement.

21 indicted on drug, gun charges in ‘Aryan Knights’ gang investigation

A federal grand jury in Boise has indicted 21 people in a major methamphetamine distribution and firearms investigation focused on the “Aryan Knights” gang, which authorities say is active both in and outside of prison. “Methamphetamine trafficking is Idaho's most serious drug crime,” said U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson. “The involvement of known gang members and the presence of firearms pose significant danger to our communities.”

The indictments come as a result of a joint federal, state and local law enforcement effort involving the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crime Task Force and more. Five of the defendants were arrested earlier today; 12 already were in custody and there are outstanding warrants for the remaining four. Most are from Boise; there also are two from Twin Falls, one from Pocatello, one from Ogden, Utah and one from California. You can read the full announcement here from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Seized assets from CdA drug trafficker boost ISP, CdA Police 7 years later

Robert Mertens is serving a 37-year term in federal prison for drug trafficking, firearms violations and money laundering - he's been behind bars since 2004 - but it's taken until now for all appeals and asset forfeiture proceedings in the case to be completed. As a result, today the Idaho State Police got a check for $456,446, and the Coeur d'Alene Police Department will get one for $18,630.

“The investigation, prosecution and conviction of Robert Mertens was a success on many levels,” said U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy J. Olson. “A drug trafficker who was harming Idahoans was removed from the community and received a lengthy prison sentence; through the financial investigation and forfeiture proceedings he was stripped of his ill-gotten gains, and through today's equitable sharing of the proceeds of the forfeiture, we are able to financially reimburse and reinvigorate our state and local law enforcement partners. I am very proud of the patience and cooperation that all of the involved agencies displayed throughout this process.”

Mertens was convicted of 11 federal counts including conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, distribution of cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute heroin; a federal jury found that from 1995 to 2003, he regularly sold drugs from his Coeur d'Alene business, Northwest Coin & Jewelry, his homes in Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint, and a flea market in Sagle. Among the assets seized in the case were $1.2 million in gold and silver coins and precious metals; those were taken by armored truck to Southern California and auctioned off by federal authorities as part of the asset forfeiture process, drawing interest from collectors around the world.

For the ISP, which is facing a big budget crunch, the long-awaited payment will be enough to replace aging radios for its investigations division; the current system is more than 20 years old. “It'll be extremely helpful,” said Col. Jerry Russell, ISP director. Still awaiting funding: radio replacements for the patrol division, which would cost $2.3 million, and for which there's still no funding source. But Russell said getting the investigations radios is “certainly a good start,” and said, “It couldn't come at a better time.”

Olson and Russell joined officials from the FBI and the IRS at a ceremony today to present the money to ISP. “This is yet another shining example of the quality investigations conducted by joint efforts of local, state, and federal agencies,” Russell said. “Due to the collaboration with our local and federal partners we were able to dismantle a long-term narcotics trafficking organization and make a positive impact to the citizens of these communities.”

Other states still waiting for U.S. Attorney confirmations

It may seem like it’s taken an awfully long time for the process to go through of appointing Idaho’s new U.S. Attorney - after all, the Obama Administration has been in office for a year and a half. But Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who watches federal appointments and confirmations, said the confirmation of Wendy Olson as Idaho’s U.S. Attorney actually “moved pretty quickly.” Olson was among an array of nominees confirmed by the Senate today after various holds were lifted. “I think she was one of four U.S. attorneys,” Tobias said; she was confirmed on a voice vote. “There haven’t been reasons to hold them up, and I think very few of them if any have been controversial. … It just takes a while to get through the White House.” So far, Tobias said, only about half of the 93 U.S. attorneys across the nation are Obama appointees, “so he still has a number to go. So all in all, she moved fairly quickly.”

Senate confirms Olson as U.S. Attorney

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Wendy Olson as Idaho’s new U.S. Attorney, replacing current U.S. Attorney Tom Moss, who has served since 2001. Olson was recommended by Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick and nominated by the White House in March; her confirmation was applauded today by Idaho’s entire congressional delegation. Click below to read their joint press release.

Olson won quick, unanimous approval

When the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the confirmation of Wendy Olson to be Idaho’s next U.S. Attorney today, the approval came quickly on a voice vote. “There had been lengthy debate about a judicial nomination earlier in the meeting, but there was no debate on Ms. Olson’s nomination,” said Erica Chabot, press secretary for committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.  Added Chabot, “We hope the Senate will move quickly to confirm the nomination, but do not know yet when that will occur.”

President Obama nominated Olson for the post on March 10; Idaho’s entire congressional delegation enthusiastically backed the nomination and pledged to shepherd it to confirmation. Minnick called Olson “an excellent lawyer with a distinguished record of service and legal experience.” Said Sen. Mike Crapo, “She knows Idaho and the law.” Sen. Jim Risch called her “an excellent choice.”

Senate Judiciary Committee confirms Wendy Olson as U.S. Attorney for Idaho

A legal news site is reporting that Wendy Olson has been confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as Idaho’s new U.S. Attorney. Olson, the current senior litigation counsel for Idaho’s U.S. Attorney’s office, has worked there since 1997 and played a key role in the successful death penalty prosecution of North Idaho multiple murderer Joseph Duncan, among many other cases. She’s a Pocatello native, a graduate of Drake University with a law degree from Stanford, and a board member of Idaho Women Lawyers. A federal criminal prosecutor throughout her career, she’s also taught at George Washington University law school, served as president of the Treasure Valley Tennis Association, and been an active volunteer for Little League, youth soccer and youth basketball. Olson’s nomination was recommended to President Obama by Idaho’s senior Democratic elected official, Congressman Walt Minnick. If confirmed by the full Senate, she succeeds current U.S. Attorney Tom Moss, who has served since 2001.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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