Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Mont. murder suspect arrested in Valley

Law enforcement officers remove a shooting victim's body from a home about nine miles south west of Lodge Grass Tuesday near Montana's Crow Reservation. (AP Photo/The Billings Gazette, James Woodcock)

A 22-year-old man accused of killing three people in Montana was arrested Wednesday near the Spokane Valley Mall.

Sheldon Bernard Chase was taken into custody without incident during a traffic stop about 4 p.m., said Frank Harrill, agent in charge of the Spokane office of the FBI.

“We do not believe there are any other subjects at large,” Harrill said.

Chase is suspected of using a rifle Tuesday to kill his 80-year-old grandmother, Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins; his cousin, 21-year-old Levon Driftwood; and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Rueben Jefferson.

Read the rest of the story here.

Report: ‘Bad Hair Bandit’ confesses

Get Adobe Flash player

A former nurse at the Kootenai County Jail suspected in a series of bank robberies while wearing a variety of wigs confessed to the crimes after her arrest, according to court documents.

Cynthia Van Holland, 47, accused of being the "Bad Hair Bandit," remains in custody at the Placer County Jail near Sacramento, Calif., where a federal hold was recently implemented that prohibits her from leaving jail on bond.

Her appearance in U.S. District Court in Sacramento has not yet been set.

Van Holland previously was held on $500,000 bail for robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery after a Placer County sheriff's deputy arrested her and her 26-year-old husband, ex-con Christopher Alonzo, on Aug. 15 after a robbery at Bank of the West in Auburn, Calif.

The Bad Hair Bandit had been on the FBI's most wanted list since May.

Van Holland has not yet been indicted by a grand jury but is charged via complaint with three counts of robbery for heists in California.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court in Sacramento, Van Holland confessed to the 20-robbery, four-state spree and described each incident - including a May 9 robbery in Spokane - in an interview with an FBI agent at the Placer County Jail the day of her arrest.

She also confessed to robberies June 28 at banks in Sacramento and Davis. 

"Van Holland also indicated certain items of clothing she kept and other items that she threw away after some of the robberies," according to the affidavit.

Police found clothes and accessories in Van Holland's car that were consistent with the clothing worn during the robberies. They also found two wigs in the car, along with a receipt indicating they were purchased at a store in Oregon on July 1. One of the robberies occurred in Lake Oswego, Ore., that day. Van Holland also reportedly had a cat and litter box in the vehicle.

The affidavit does not say if Van Holland said what motivated the crimes. The spree began in Tacoma in December, but the FBI believes Van Holland also may have robbed two banks in Spokane in June and August 2010.

Van Holland worked as a contract nurse in jails and prisons and met Alonzo, a convicted felon from North Idaho, when he was an inmate. She was working at the Kootenai County Jail until about a week before her arrest and also worked as a school nurse in Western Washington during the robbery spree.

Van Holland's cousin, Marlene Kootstra, of Bakersfield, Calif., said family has visited Van Holland in jail but she won't discuss the criminal charges against her because it's an ongoing case.

Alonzo also remains in the Placer County Jail. The Idaho Department of Corrections has a no-bail hold because he was on probation when he was arrested.

FBI Building Going On In Riverstone

Item: An FBI presence at Riverstone/Nils Rosdahl, Business Bits, Coeur d'Alene Press

More Info: The official occupant is the General Services Administration, but the people in the building just under construction at 2155 N. Riverstone Drive will be with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The 9,500- square-foot, single-level structure to be completed in April is located on the inside corner of Riverstone Drive, south of where it connects with Seltice Way. It's west of the Riverstone Administration building, which won't be that too much longer. We'll get into the details of that and another new Riverstone building next week.

Question: Did you know the FBI had an office in Coeur d'Alene?

New gun charge for white supremacist

A white supremacist arrested on gun charges last year has been indicted on a new charge related to additional firearms.

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 53, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to being a felon in possession of a firearm for allegedly possessing five firearms on Aug. 21, 2010. Court documents say he's expected to argue at trial that he was entrapped by an FBI informant.

The charge carries up to 10 years in prison. Kurt, who appeared in U.S. District Court Tuesday with long hair and a shaggy beard, has been in the Spoakne County Jail since last August on a felon in possession charge related to three guns; the new, superseding charge comes as prosecutors are preparing for trial next month.

The guns belonged to a confidential informant who was targeting shooting with Kurt on the informant's property. Kurt also brought two of his own firearms to the property, prosecutors say.

Spokane-area investigators believe Kurt, a convicted currency counterfeiter, used fraudulent identities to obtain guns and ammunition. He was considered such a flight risk that the FBI didn't give him a chance to surrender last August - an agent simply ran up and tackled him.

Defense attorneys are expected to argue at trial that Kurt was entrapped by the informant.

Prosecutors have filed documents asking for defense testimony regarding entrapment be limited, pointing to what they imply was Kurt's predisposition to commit the crime. Prosecutors are objecting to a request from the defens to close the courtroom for the testimony of two witnesses, whom reportedly fear retaliation from Kurt's violent white supremacist group, the Vanguard Kindred.

Kurt and the informant left the group in 2009 or 2010, accoridng to court documents.

The informant began working with the FBI in February 2010 as part of an ongoing investigation into the group, documents say.

Prosecutors say the informant recorded Kurt talking about his firearms and plans for improvement.

A judge has not yet ruled on the prosecution's motion to limit defense entrapment testimony.

Past coverage:

Sept. 3: Supremacist with assault rifles to stay jailed

Sept. 1: FBI raid targets man with white supremacist ties

Bad Hair Bandit suspect was school nurse

Get Adobe Flash player

A former prison nurse suspected of robbing at least 20 banks in four states also worked as a school nurse in Western Washington during the crime spree.

Suspected "Bad Hair Bandit" Cynthia Lynn Van Holland's bail was increased to $500,000 when she appeared in court in Placer County on Thursday, where she's been custody since her arrest Monday on suspicion of bank robbery. 

The New York Times reports that Van Holland, 47, had a cat and litter box in her Chrysler Sebring when she and her husband, 26-year-old felon Christopher S. Alonzo, were stopped on a freeway outside Auburn, Calif., northeast of Sacramento.

Van Holland worked as a nurse for the Bethel School District in Spanaway, Wash., from September 2010 to March of this year, during which she allegedly robbed 10 banks in Western Washington.

She moved from school to school and as a contracted LPN with Soliant Health, said Krista Carlson, spokeswoman for the Bethel School District. The nurses typically help students with preexisting medical conditions, Carlson said.

Soliant conducted a background check, and "we also did several reference checks on her and found no flags and no priors," Carlson said.

Van Holland is a longtime license practical nurse in Idaho who met Alonzo while working in the state prison system.

She worked part-time at the Kootenai County Jail from April until just last week. The FBI believes she robbed at least eight banks during that time, including one in Spokane on May 9.

The 20-robbery spree began in Tacoma in December, but investigators suspect Van Holland may be the same wigged woman who robbed two banks in Spokane last summer.

Bad Hair Bandit suspect worked at jail

Get Adobe Flash player

A series of bank robberies involving a woman wearing a variety of unattractive wigs may be the work of a nurse employed at the Kootenai County Jail until just last week.

 The FBI announced Wednesday that Cynthia Lynn Van Holland, 47, is believed to be the serial robber nicknamed the Bad Hair Bandit, who’s been on the FBI’s most-wanted list since June and is suspected in at least 20 robberies in three states.

Van Holland, of Hayden, Idaho, was arrested Monday after a bank robbery northeast of Sacramento. Her husband, 26-year-old Christopher S. Alonzo, also was taken into custody. The two remain in the Placer County Jail in Auburn, Calif.

 A family member said Van Holland met Alonzo while working as a nurse at a prison in Southern Idaho.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 12: Was the Bad Hair Bandit here last year?

Robberies attributed to the Bad Hair Bandit, not including the two in Spokane last year:

  • US Bank, Tacoma, WA—12/22/2010 
  • Key Bank, Tumwater, WA—01/05/2011 
  • Key Bank, Tacoma, WA—01/12/2011 
  • Wells Fargo Bank, Spanaway, WA—01/14/2011 
  • Heritage Bank, Tacoma, WA—01/21/2011 
  • Cathay Bank, Kent, WA—01/26/2011 
  • First Security Bank, Redmond, WA—01/27/2011 
  • US Bank, Auburn, WA—02/10/2011 
  • Wells Fargo Bank, University Place, WA—02/19/2011 
  • Sound Community Bank, Tacoma, WA—03/25/2011 
  • Wells Fargo Bank, University Place, WA—04/09/2011 
  • Cathay Bank, Bellevue, WA—04/21/2011 
  • Wheatland Bank, Ellensburg, WA—04/26/2011 
  • Key Bank, Moses Lake, WA—04/27/2011 
  • Chase Bank, Spokane, WA—05/09/2011 
  • Sterling Bank, Moses Lake, WA—06/07/2011 
  • Key Bank, Lake Oswego, OR—07/01/2011 
  • Yakima Federal, Richland, WA—07/18/2011 
  • Bank of Butte, Butte, MT—08/11/2011 
  • Bank of the West, Auburn, CA—08/15/2011

Bad Hair Bandit is suspect in Butte hold up

Get Adobe Flash player

BUTTE (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether a Montana bank robbery is related to at least 18 bank robberies in Washington and Oregon attributed to "the Bad Hair Bandit."

A woman wearing a short, dark-haired wig robbed the Bank of Butte Thursday, getting away with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber implied she had a gun.

Butte-Silver Bow County Sheriff John Walsh tells The Montana Standard the FBI is looking into whether the bad hair bandit is involved. An FBI spokeswoman wouldn’t comment.

The FBI’s website says the Bad Hair Bandit robs banks by passing a note to the teller and claiming that she has a gun. She wears a variety of unattractive wigs during the robberies.

The FBI believes the same woman may have also robbed two Banner Bank locations in Spokane last summer.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the bandit’s conviction.

Harpham computers will be part of case

Evidence of racist postings found on domestic terroism suspect Kevin Harpham’s computers will used in his trial afer a federal judge on Friday denied motions from defense lawyers.

 U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said the searches of Harpham’s home, at 1088 Cannon Way, near Addy, Wash., and at his father’s home in Kettle Falls fell “within the four corners of the search warrant.”

The judge also recalled FBI agent Joseph Cleary, who acknowledged that it was a mistake that neither he nor another agent read Harpham the arrest warrant even after Harpham, 37, asked why he was being taken into custody on March 9 near Addy.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 5: Pliers may be evidence in Harpham's trial

Ex-CdA developer guilty in murder plot

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal jury has unanimously convicted a former Coeur d'Alene-area developer of crafting a murder-for-hire scheme to kill a prosecutor and key witnesses in a North Idaho drug case.

Kelly J. Polatis was found guilty Wednesday of 14 combined counts of witness tampering and using interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire. The jury acquitted Polatis of three charges. Defense attorney Lawrence Leigh says he'll appeal.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will sentence Polatis on Sept. 30. He faces more than 130 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Polatis attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man to kill five people who spoke to authorities about his involvement in a marijuana growing operation in Coeur d'Alene. Polatis was acquitted of the drug charges in 2010 and arrested on the murder-for-hire charges the same day.

May 24: Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot case

May 13, 2010: Couple in pot case murder plot sentenced

April 21, 2010: FBI: Murder plot uncovered in marijuana case

Jury deliberating in Idaho murder plot

A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Wednesday continued to deliberate the fate of a former North Idaho developer accused of plotting to kill several witnesses and a federal prosecutor connected to a drug case filed against him in Idaho.

 Jurors began their second day of deliberations in the murder-for-hire case of 41-year-old Kelly J. Polatis, following a 7-day trial and closing arguments in the case, which wrapped up Tuesday.

Read the full story from the Salt Lake City Tribune here.

Past coverage:

May 24: Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot case

May 13, 2010: Couple in pot case murder plot sentenced

April 21, 2010: FBI: Murder plot uncovered in marijuana case

Native American tribe sues over raid

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — A Washington state Native American tribe is suing several Mississippi municipalities over allegations that their law enforcement officials illegally invaded tribal lands during an FBI-led raid earlier this year.

The target of the Feb. 16 search was property that belongs to King Mountain Tobacco, which was under federal investigation in a black-market cigarette conspiracy. The city of Tupelo and Marshall County in Mississippi are among targets in the lawsuit.

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakama Nation claim police barged onto tribal land without prior notice and invaded their peace.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington, seeks a court order compelling the defendants to notify the tribe of any entry onto reservation lands.

News of the lawsuit came Friday in a city of Tupelo memo obtained by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. In it, the city's attorney, John Hill, asked City Clerk Glenda Muse to put on the City Council's July 19 agenda a proposal to hire a Washington State law firm to represent Tupelo.

In Hill's memo, he explains that a Tupelo police officer has been assisting federal authorities with the cigarette investigation and participated "in an action" on the Yakama reservation in Washington. Other Mississippi entities are named for similar reasons.

The tribe says the raid, which it calls an invasion, was a violation of the Yakama Treaty of 1855 and other federal laws.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a memo written June 22 that the warrant to search the eastern Washington state reservation "was to seek evidence of a crime, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed" or used in the commission of a crime.

In this case, the allegations claim King Mountain Tobacco, housed on the Yakama reservation, engaged in efforts to avoid federal and state taxes on their cigarette sales.

Documents obtained by the Daily Journal earlier this year claim King Mountain Tobacco officials repeatedly met with Lee County, Miss., cigarette warehousers and illegally shipped their products through Mississippi to avoid the taxes.

No criminal charges have been made public against any King Mountain Tobacco officials, although the federal documents claim they have been shown substantial evidence against them.

Recently the U.S. Attorney's Office in North Mississippi filed court papers to seize nearly $1 million and some 22 vintage vehicles reportedly purchased with the proceeds of King Mountain's alleged illegal activity.

Tupelo wholesaler Jerry Burke has gone to prison for his parts in the conspiracy, and others have been sentenced or await sentencing for their guilty pleas.

2 Seattle terror plot suspects arraigned

A federal building that houses the Seattle Military Processing Center is seen June 23 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — The two men charged with planning to attack a Seattle military recruiting station have pleaded not guilty.

 An indictment released by the U.S. attorney's office Thursday charges 33-year-old Khalid Abdul-Latif (pictured) of Seattle and 32-year-old Walli Mujahidh of Los Angeles with conspiracy to murder federal agents and officers, as well as conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh pleaded not guilty to all counts at a Thursday afternoon hearing. Trial was set to begin Sept. 7.

Both men also face additional weapons charges, and Abdul-Latif is accused of soliciting a crime of violence.

According to allegations previously laid out in an FBI complaint, the two were arrested June 22 after they arrived at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns to use in the attack. Investigators said they learned of the plot when someone Abdul-Latif recruited to obtain weapons turned to Seattle police and then acted as a paid confidential informant.

Past coverage:

June 23: Two arrested in alleged Seattle terror plot

FBI: ‘Bad Hair Bandit’ now in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The FBI says the so-called "Bad Hair Bandit," sought in connection with as many as 18 bank robberies or attempted robberies in Washington, is now suspected in a robbery in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego. 

Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says the woman approached a teller Friday afternoon in a Key Bank branch, indicated she had a weapon and demanded money. She walked out with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Steele says the woman wore a distinctive short dark wig and fits the description of other heists by the "Bad Hair Bandit," who is pictured during a Feb. 10 robbery in Auburn, Wash.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to conviction of the robber.

The FBI believes the same woman may have robbed two banks in Spokane last summer in Spokane last summer.

She's also believed to have robbed a north Spokane bank in May after robbing banks in Ellensburg and Moses Lake in April.

Manhunt continues for ex-militia leader

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say they believe a former militia man is still alive nearly two weeks after he fired at sheriff's deputies and then fled into the western Montana woods.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Department says authorities were working to rule out that 47-year-old David Burgert was injured or had harmed himself.

More than 40 officers and two cadaver dogs participated in the search on Thursday but turned up no sign of him.

A department statement issued today says officers searched between U.S. Highway 12 and Interstate 90, but found no evidence that Burgert is still in the immediate area. Nobody was injured in the June 12 shooting.

Burgert was the leader of a militia group accused of plotting to assassinate judges and law enforcement officers in Flathead County a decade ago. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Burgert as an associate of Alaska militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox, who is in jail on federal charges accusing him of plotting to kill law enforcement officials.

Cox, 27, was the featured speaker at a meeting of extremist groups at the Post Falls Greyhound Park in December 2009.

Boston mob boss hid in plain sight

Police and FBI surround the apartment building in Santa Monica, Calif., where fugitive crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger and his longtime companion Catherine Greig were arrested Wednesday.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — As the FBI chased leads on two continents, Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger spent nearly all of his 16 years on the lam in this quiet seaside city, passing himself off as just another elderly retiree, albeit one who kept a .357 Magnum and more than 100 rounds of ammunition in his modest apartment.

 Bulger — the FBI's most-wanted man and a feared underworld figure linked to 19 murders — was captured Wednesday after one of the biggest manhunts in U.S. history. His undoing may have been his impeccably groomed girlfriend.

Earlier this week, after years of frustration, the FBI put out a series of daytime TV announcements with photos of Bulger's blond live-in companion, Catherine Greig. The announcements pointed out that Greig was known to frequent beauty salons and have her teeth cleaned once a month.

Two days later, the campaign produced a tip that led agents to the two-bedroom apartment three blocks from the Pacific Ocean where Bulger and Greig lived, authorities said. The FBI would not give any details about the tip.

Bulger and Greig are pictured at their arraignment Thursday in a sketch by Bill Robles.

Bulger, the 81-year-old boss of South Boston's vicious Winter Hill Gang — a man who authorities say would not hesitate to shoot someone between the eyes — was lured outside the building and captured without resistance. Greig, 60, was also arrested.

 Neighbors were stunned to learn they had been living in the same building as the man who was the model for Jack Nicholson's ruthless crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie "The Departed."

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Bad Hair Bandit on FBI’s wanted list

Get Adobe Flash player

SEATTLE — A Washington bank robber known for wearing a variety of unattractive wigs is featured in a new wanted poster on the FBI website.  

The “Bad Hair Bandit” is the first bank robber from the FBI's Seattle division to appear on the national website in many years, FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich said.

The FBI is hoping to get some help from the public in capturing the woman who has committed or attempted at least 16 bank robberies in the Puget Sound area, Ellensburg and Spokane since December 2010.

She is believed to have robbed a bank in Moses Lake earlier this month and may have robbed two banks in Spokane last summer before the spree began in western Washington.

The website features a gallery of 18 surveillance photos of the “Bad Hair Bandit” in various wigs. Many are featured above.

A reward totaling $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of and charges against the bank robber.

Hunt continues for paranoid survivalist

Get Adobe Flash player

LOLO, Mont. (AP) — A practiced survivalist and former militia leader whose mother said he slipped into paranoia after repeated run-ins with Montana law enforcement eluded authorities searching for him Tuesday in a remote mountain range near the Idaho border.

 As the hunt for 47-year-old ex-convict David Burgert carried into its third day, court documents and interviews with law enforcement officials painted a picture of a well-armed "bully" who became convinced a decade ago that authorities were out to get him.

Burgert is being sought for attempted homicide and probation violations after allegedly firing a handgun at two Missoula County sheriff's deputies during a confrontation Sunday about 25 miles west of Missoula.

As the leader of the since-disbanded "Project 7" militia in northwest Montana, Burgert was convicted in 2003 of illegally possessing a machine gun and sentenced to federal prison. He was released last year.

Prior to his arrest in that case, Burgert eluded authorities by staging his death along the Flathead River and then retreating to a secluded forest encampment near Kalispell. He was caught about a month later following an hours-long, armed standoff in the forest, authorities said.

His latest escapade bears similar hallmarks: Caches of weapons, food and gear believed to be Burgert's have been found in the woods in the search area, and authorities said he appears to have planned the attack on the deputies.

No one was hurt in Sunday's exchange of gunfire.

In a 2007 letter to the federal judge overseeing his illegal weapons case, Burgert's mother, Phyllis Richards, pleaded for a reduction in Burgert's prison sentence based partly on his history of mental health problems. Richards said her son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and became paranoid after he came under the watch of authorities.

"He was so scared for his own life he was doing all he could just (to) go to the mountains to live and to survive," Richards wrote of her son's activities leading up to his arrest. "I saw fear in Dave I never saw before. … From that time on he was obsessed with things going on in the world and was so very paranoid."

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Manhunt for ex-militia leader scaled back

FBI agents, in a helicopter from the Montana National Guard, land at the Lumberjack Saloon west of Lolo, Mont., Monday to join in a manhunt for David Burgert. (AP Photos/Missoulian, Linda Thompson)

LOLO, Mont. (AP) — Authorities are scaling back the ground hunt for a former militia leader accused of firing a gun at Missoula County deputies Sunday before disappearing into the woods near the Idaho border.

Missoula County Undersheriff Mike Dominick says law enforcement agents continue to patrol a 50-square-mile area centered on the Lolo National Forest in the search for ex-convict David Burgert.  But Dominick says Burgert could've escaped the area in a 1987 Jeep Wagoneer that Burgert owns but authorities have been unable to find.

 The 47-year-old Burgert is the former leader of a Flathead County militia group that was accused of plotting to assassinate local officials and overthrow the federal government.

He and some other members eventually pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges. Burgert was released from prison in March after serving eight years.

Burgert, who previously told police "he wasn't going to be taken down like last time," may have planned Sunday's attack, Dominick told The Associated Press on Monday.

Authorities found ammunition packed inside the Jeep's engine compartment and in another vehicle associated with Burgert, as well as two stolen rifles and a magazine of handgun ammunition on the ground near where he fled, Dominick said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Burgert as an associate of Alaska militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox, who is in jail on federal charges accusing him of plotting to kill law enforcement officials. Cox, 27, was the featured speaker at a meeting of extremist groups at the Post Falls Greyhound Park in December 2009.

‘Sovereigns’ gaining attention locally

Deputies were prepared for the worst as they stood by in a Spokane County courtroom earlier this month during routine hearings for mostly low-level felonies.

Their focus was on one of the more benign cases – possession and distribution of marijuana.

But it wasn’t the nature of the allegations that got their attention. It was the defendant, a self-proclaimed “sovereign” who doesn’t consider himself a citizen of the United States even though he was born and raised here.

Adrian B. Shannon, 30, is among a growing number of people who question the legitimacy of federal, state and local government agencies and employ a series of legal maneuvers they believe exempt them from driver’s licenses and birth certificates, paying taxes, or even criminal charges.

“People call it a movement, but it’s individuals, literally sovereigns, that are all learning, ‘Hey we don’t have to put up with these ridiculous laws, because we are the government,’ ” Shannon said.

Read the rest of my Sunday story here.

FBI: Tribal jail deputy raped inmate

A former jail deputy on the Spokane Indian Reservation is accused of raping an inmate.

Clifford Arlen Matherly, 35, was arrested at a gas station in Chewelah, Wash., on Monday, according to the FBI.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno ordered Matherly released from Spokane County Jail on Tuesday after he pleaded not guilty to a grand jury indictment. He’s to report to all court hearings and is prohibited from contacting the alleged victim, who prosecutors say still lives in the community.

Read the rest of my story here.

Bad Hair Bandit robs Moses Lake bank

Get Adobe Flash player

A serial bank robber dubbed "the Bad Hair Bandit" is believed to have robbed a bank in Moses Lake on Tuesday.

 A wigged woman matching the description of the robber thought to be responsible for 14 bank robberies since December entered Sterling Savings Bank and demanded money but did not display a weapon, according to the Associated Press.  A picture from a February robbery is at left.

The method matches that of the Bad Hair Bandit, who police believed robbed Chase Bank on Francis Avenue in Spokane last month after robbing banks in Ellensburg and Moses Lake in late April.

The FBI believes the same woman may have also robbed two Banner Bank locations in Spokane last summer.

Enjoy a slide show of photos from the 14-bank robbery spree above.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to her capture. Anyone with information should call at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

FBI says bank robberies have dipped about 8 percent in first quarter 2011

Our pals at the FBI recently caught our attention by noting that bank robberies for the first quarter of 2011 are down about 8 percent from the year before.

The statistical summary is at this link at FBI.gov's media page: http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-bank-crime-statistics-for-first-quarter-of-2011

It's hard not to get speculative on that downturn. Either the amount of money sitting in banks is down and hence, less appealing to would-be felons.

Or the number of financial institutions is down and with it, the number of folks who stroll by a building in their neighborhood one day and form the crazy idea that they're this generation's Willie Sutton.

To be clear, we regard this as a very positive piece of news.

FBI: Racist felon had ammo, 5 firearms

A Whitman County man arrested on federal gun charges last month had several guns and a large collection of ammunition when investigators searched his properties, a new indictment alleges.

Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop, 29, faces two counts of felon in possession of a firearm and a forfeiture charge that demands he give up four rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun, and more than 150 rounds of shotgun shells and other ammunition.

A grand jury indicted him on the new charges this week in U.S. District Court.

Hop was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, a felony that prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition.

Hop was arrested during an FBI investigation April 20 for allegedly possessing an Izhmash 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun on March 25.

His brother, Michael Hop, said he was set up by an FBI informant who supplied the shotgun after suggesting they go shooting.

Hop has bragged online about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County. He remains in custody without bail at the Spokane County Jail.

FBI: Man masturbated on Spokane flight

A Florida man masturbated during a flight from Spokane to Denver last week, a criminal charge alleges.

Two 18-year-old passengers told an FBI agent that they saw Kyle Devin Pearce, 25, masturbating while on board United Airlines Flight 340 on May 19.

One witness said he was sitting behind Pearce when he saw what he was doing and "hit him with my book in the arm, which caused him to stop and leave to the bathroom. After a while he returned," according to an affidavit. Both witnesses said Pearce's penis was visible.

Pearce was to connect to an Orlando-bound flight but was instead arrested at the airport and appeared before a federal judge in Denver. He posted $25,000 bond Tuesday.

Pearce is charged with crimes aboard aircraft, which carries a maximum 90 days in jail, $5,000 fine and one year probation.

Trial set in U.S. attorney murder plot

Trial for a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and witnesses in a North Idaho marijuana case is set for July. 

Pre-trial motions in the case of Kelly J. Polatis are due by June 1 with jury selection set to begin July 11, a federal judge in Utah ruled last week.

Polatis has been in federal custody in Utah since April 2010, just after a North Idaho federal jury acquitted him of drug charges related to a mairjuana grow operation in Post Falls.

Before his acquittal, prosecutors say Polatis tried to kill his co-defendants by hiring a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agents. 

A judge recently rejected a request by his lawyers to dismiss the murder-for-hire charges for outrageous government misconduct. The defense alleged the FBI agents led Polatis on when he was drunk, and also alleged prosecutors were vindictive when they filed the case right after Polatis was acquitted on the marijuana charges.

According to court documents, Polatis met with FBI Agent Greg Rogers, who was posing as a hitman, on May 13, 2009, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, where they gambled, ate lunch and discussed a murder-for-hire proposal. Rogers told Polatis he would need a $15,000 down payment, and Polatis said that was fine.

Two days later, Polatis called Rogers and said he wanted to hire him"to cut off the finger of a man he believed had been cheating with his common-law wife," accoridng to court documents. "Polatis also indicted that having Agent Rogers commit that act would give Polatis absolutely confidence in Roger in connection with the murder-for-hire."

Prosecutors say Rogers knew the name of one of Polatis' intended victims before the meeting but not others.

"…Agents were unaware of the identities of those victims until Polatis actually met with Agent Rogers," according to court documents. "Agents were also completely surprised when Polatis raised the issue with Agents Rogers of killing Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Cook."

Polatis is represented by Lawrence Leigh of Slat Lake City and Gabriel Grasso of Las Vegas, who was part of former football great O.J. Simpson's defense team in 2008. They say Polatis was set up by the FBI, and that Rogers badgered him into discussing the plot while intoxicated.

Polatis is a former partner with Kirk-Hughes Development, LLC, which fought Kootenai County’s rejection of its proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development. The firm's lawyer appeared in court with him when he was first arrested.

Past coverage:

May 13, 2010: Couple in pot case murder plot sentenced

April 21, 2010: FBI: Murder plot uncovered in marijuana case

Per request, bank suspect lowers hood

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The FBI says an Ohio bank robbery suspect left authorities with good surveillance photos because he lowered his hood when an employee told him to.

FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas says the man in his mid-20s entered a Columbus PNC Bank on Wednesday with his dark hood up, covering most of his face.

Trombitas says in a statement that the bank has a "no hats, no hoods" policy, so a bank employee told the man (pictured) to pull his hood down, and he complied.

The FBI says when the suspect got to the counter, he handed the teller a note saying he had a gun and to give him money or he would shoot. He fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Columbus police haven't announced an arrest.

Was the Bad Hair Bandit here last year?

Get Adobe Flash player

A serial bank robber dubbed "the Bad Hair Bandit" may have robbed two north Spokane banks last year.

The FBI is investigating whether a woman believed to be responsible for 14 robberies since last December also struck two Banner Bank locations in Spokane last summer.

On June 30, a heavyset woman robbed Banner Bank at 933 E. Mission Ave. wearing a red wig and sunglasses. Police say the same woman wore a black wig while robbing Banner Bank at 3919 N. Market on Aug. 2.  

Nearly five months later, a wigged woman started robbing banks in Western Washington and continued through April.

The FBI believes the same woman robbed banks April 26 and April 27 in Ellensburg and Moses Lake, then Chase Bank on Francis Avenue in Spokane Monday.

Investigators say the Bad Hair Bandit may be staying at cheap motels in the Spokane area. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to her capture. Anyone with information should call at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Surveillance photos from those robberies are pictured left and right. Enjoy a slideshow of photos from the 14-bank robbery spree above.

Here's a list of the robberies tied to the Bad Hair Bandit since December:

  • Dec. 22, 10:15 a.m., U.S. Bank, 870 S. 38th St., Tacoma
  • Jan. 5, 11:05 a.m., Key Bank, 5400 Capitol Blvd, Tumwater
  • Jan. 12, 10:30 a.m., Key Bank, 3501 S. 19th St., Tacoma
  • Jan. 14, 3:30 p.m., Wells Fargo, 15004 Pacific Ave., Spanaway
  • Jan. 21, 4:20 p.m., Heritage Bank, 8002 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
  • Jan. 26, 2:59 p.m., Cathay Bank, 18030 E. Valley Highway, Kent
  • Jan. 27, 1:36 p.m., First Security, 14808 N.E. 24th St., Redmond
  • Feb. 10, 5:24 p.m., U.S. Bank, 401 SE 15th St., Auburn
  • Feb. 19, 11:45 a.m., Wells Fargo, 2615 W. Bridgeport Way, University Place
  • March 25, 5:43 p.m., Sound Community, 2941 S. 38th St., Tacoma
  • April 9, 12:49 p.m., Wells Fargo, 2615 W. Bridgeport Way, University Place
  • April 21, 2:12 p.m., Cathay Bank, 13238 N.E. 20th St., Bellevue
  • April 26, 3:25 p.m., Wheatland bank, 205 S. Main St., Ellensburg
  • April 27, 10:02 a.m., Key Bank, 314 E. 3rd Ave., Moses Lake

Expert may not testify; Steele still could

A defense expert who says he found anomalies in FBI recordings of murder-for-hire suspect Edgar Steele will not be able to testify remotely from his tropical vacation, a judge ruled this morning.

Defense lawyers did not subpoena George Papcun, who is vacationing in Bora Bora with his wife and unable to testify in person.  
They requested a two-day extension to give them time to get Papcun to Boise, but U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill declined.
"This is a problem that the defense is making, not the courts," Winmill said. He cited the phrase "procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."
 The jury was sent home until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow; Winmill said there's a chance Papcun could fly to Boise overnight and testify then.
The case could go to the jury Thursday morning, Winmill said. "Certainly we'll have it presented to you before the end of the week," Winmill told jurors.
Papcun could be the last defense witness; defense lawyer Robert McAllister said Edgar Steele has not yet decided if he will testify.
"If he does make that decision, I would like him to be the last witness in our case," McAllister said.

Defense expert to refute Steele recording

In what defense lawyer Robert McAllister said was "great news," a man hired by the defense to refute the authenticity of the FBI recordings in the Edgar Steele case will be allowed to testify.

McAllister requested Monday that George Papcun be allowed to testify. Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed, and defense lawyers are working to arrange a time. Papcun could testify via video, similar to the taped deposition by Steele's alleged love interest, 25-year-old Tatyana Loginova of Ukraine. 
Papcun said he wouldn’t use the term “suspicious” to describe anomalies in the recording because a variety of factors could have caused the glitches he observed.
Winmill ruled today that testimony provided by Cyndi Steele and her daughter, Kelsey Steele, opened the door for testimony from Papcun about whether the recordings have been altered by the federal government.
Prosecutors are expected to present witnesses to rebut Papcuns testimony. The case could be with the jury as early as late tomorrow or early Wednesday.

Steele jurors hear from Ukrainian woman

Edgar Steele told a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman after his arrest on murder-for-hire charges that the Anti-Defamation League had manufactured a recording of him plotting to kill his wife using a collection of secret recordings by Larry Fairfax and thousands of hours of online audio files. 

Steele wrote in a letter to Tatyana Loginova that the case against him began when Fairfax stole $45,000 in silver, though prosecutors have shown jurors that Steele cashed in about that same amount of silver a couple months before his arrest.

"This has been a huge shock to me but not really a surprise; they have been after me for a long time because of my outspoken criticism" of the federal government and U.S. power brokers, Steele wrote Loginova.

FBI Special Agent Brent Smith, who is based in the Ukraine, read from the letter this morning in U.S. District Court in Boise, the fourth day of testimony in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

Smith helped with Loginova's deposition in the Ukraine. Loginova declined to travel to the United States to testify, and because she is not a U.S. citizen, she could not be forced to appear.

In a deposition taped in early March, Loginova, through a  translator, said she met Steele through an online dating website, exchanged emails and learned about his personal life.

"Did he ever tell you if he had kids?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked.

"Yes, he did. They told me that they don't live with him though. He told me that he lives alone," Loginova said through a  translator.

Steele wrote that Loginova could find work, "take care of our babies, make love to me, whatever would make you happy."

He said he was trying to get his children to mail her a package with a teddy bear, map of the area and other gifts.

"I begin to suspect that my ex may be behind all of this," Steele writes. "She knows that you are very special to me and I know that's why she has not sent your box as she promised me she would do."

Loginova said Steele planned to visit Ukraine in August 2010. 

She said the two began talking over Skype in May or early June.

Under cross examination, defense lawyer Gary Amendola emphasized that Loginova doesn't actually know if  Steele is the one who wrote the letter.

Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, testified last week that her husband was corresponding with Loginova and other women as part of his research into the Russian mail order bride scam.

The prosecution has rested. Judge Winmill has denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges against Steele.

The defense will begin presenting its case shortly. Steele's wife and daughter have attended each day of the trial. Hayden resident Deon Masker, wife of white supremacist Richard Masker, is at the trial for the first time today.