James Hogan Case: Wife of Missing Diplomat Charged with Witness Tampering, False Statements, and Obstruction of Justice

The spouse of James Hogan, the U.S. diplomat who disappeared in the Netherlands Antilles has been charged by DOJ in a multiple count indictment for her alleged role in the “obstruction of a multi-national investigation into the disappearance of her husband”:

Via DOJ:

Florida Woman Charged with Witness Tampering, False Statements, and Obstruction of Justice in Relation to Her Husband’s Disappearance
U.S. Department of Justice August 24, 2011   

WASHINGTON—A Gainesville, Florida woman was charged in a seven-count indictment filed yesterday in the Northern District of Florida for her alleged role in the obstruction of a multi-national investigation into the disappearance of her husband, James Hogan, then an employee in the U.S. Consulate in Curacao, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Pamela Cothran Marsh for the Northern District of Florida; Ambassador Eric J. Boswell of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security; and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office.

Abby Beard Hogan, 50, was charged with two counts of making false statements to federal law enforcement officials, one count of witness tampering, and four counts of obstruction of justice. According to the indictment, on the night of Sept. 24, 2009, James Hogan, an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Curacao, a Caribbean island that was part of the Netherlands Antilles, left his home on foot and subsequently disappeared. The next day, a diver located his blood-stained clothing on a local beach. American officials and the government of Curacao and the Kingdom of the Netherlands opened an investigation into the disappearance of James Hogan.

The indictment alleges that, during the course of the investigation, Abby Hogan repeatedly provided false information to U.S. law enforcement about the time period before James Hogan’s disappearance and withheld relevant information. Abby Hogan allegedly denied, among other things, that she was having an extramarital affair and that she and her husband had argued about the affair on the night of Sept. 24, 2009. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Abby Hogan deleted multiple e-mails discussing the events leading up to and surrounding her husband’s disappearance. The indictment also alleges that Abby Hogan instructed at least one person to conceal information from investigators.

The indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Abby Hogan faces a maximum of five years in prison for each false statement count and 20 years in prison for each count of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Teresa Wallbaum of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Williams for the Northern District of Florida. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Legal Attaché Office in Bridgetown, Barbados. Assistance was also provided by Curacao law enforcement authorities.

The Latin American Herald Tribune in its coverage notes the following additional info:

Abby Beard Cope and her husband met while they were both serving as officers in the Navy in San Diego. He was a 1982 graduate of the US Naval Academy. She served for 11 years as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General legal corps and he served for 22 years as a pilot, before joining the State Department. They served 2 tours in Africa (Cote d’Ivoire and Botswana) before what was supposed to be a two year assignment in Curacao. The Hogans have 5 children.

James Hogan’s body has never been found and his disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.

This is the first indictment in the disappearance case that will mark a two year milestone next month. I’m afraid this case may take a tawdry turn before it is over.

Related posts:

UK’s Tandem Ambassadors Assignment to ‘Love Embassy’ Roils Yerevan

The Daily Mail recently reported that the UK’s Foreign Office has been accused of making Britain a laughing stock by appointing a married couple to share a senior diplomatic appointment.

The married couple is Jonathan Aves and his wife Katherine Leach who will take turns to be the ambassador to Armenia, each doing the job for four months while the other spends that time looking after their children.

Critics in the former Soviet republic say the unusual arrangement means Britain is displaying a ‘lack of seriousness’ towards the country.

The controversy comes after it was revealed that the current ambassador recently married an Armenian woman working at the British Embassy.

The two developments have led to local politicians nicknaming the British mission the ‘love embassy’.

Mr Aves, 51, and his 41-year-old wife will both have the title of ambassador when they move to the Armenian ¬capital, Yerevan, next January with their children Maddie, seven, Mimi, four, and Joe, two.

The report quotes Arman Navasardyan, the country’s former deputy foreign minister:

‘The British do not take us Armenians seriously. I doubt whether they would send a couple to the United States or many other countries.’
‘Ambassadors normally spend their first two years getting to know the country and only the third year brings real returns. Yet here we have a wife as ambassador for a few months, then her husband. Then what? Madam again?

‘The attitude here is predictable – raised eyebrows and laughter. We don’t understand why Armenia should be treated in this manner.

The report also notes that the couple recently completed a joint posting at the British Embassy in Tokyo but the move to Yerevan will be their first ambassadorial role.  The FCO gave two reasons for the tandem posting:

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Joint postings are a modern way of working which help deliver the best possible diplomatic service in the host country.
‘They also provide better value for the UK taxpayer as they keep families together and reduce travel and shipping costs.’

That is so understandable.  Read in full here.

Below is an excerpt from the official FCO statement:

Mr Jonathan James Aves and Ms Katherine Jane Leach, a husband and wife team, have been appointed Her Majesty’s Joint Ambassadors to the Republic of Armenia in succession to Mr Charles John Lonsdale, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Aves and Ms Leach will take up their appointment during January 2012. Both Mr Aves and Ms Leach will be permanently resident in Yerevan and alternate in exercising the functions of Ambassador on a four-monthly rotation.

Mr Aves and Ms Leach joined the FCO in 1996 and 2000 respectively, following careers in academia and public opinion research. Together they have many years’ experience and knowledge of the history, languages and culture of the South Caucasus and the wider region. Their FCO careers have covered a range of policy areas including security policy, EU trade and development, energy security and human rights. Most recently they had a joint posting to Tokyo where Mr Aves coordinated the UK’s political input into Japan’s 2008 G8 Chairmanship and Ms Leach coordinated UK and Japanese positions in advance of the UN climate change summit in Cancun and worked with UK and Japanese business to promote low carbon prosperity. In 2011, Mr Aves worked on the UK’s input into the UN Human Rights Council on issues such as Libya, Syria and Iran.

The Daily Mail calls it a bizarre job share but I think their joint ambassadorial posting is just swell. They are both career diplomats; can’t expect Ms. Leach to just stay home and be homemaker while Mr. Aves run the British mission!  C’mon folks, it’s the 21st century!

The State Department has a few tandem couples who are ambassadors (two comes to mind, Mary Warlick in Serbia; James Warlick in Bulgaria; Kristine Kenney in Thailand and William Brownfield, formerly Ambassador to Colombia and now with INL) but I cannot recall a joint ambassadorship ever.

On second thought, because we do have political ambassadorships, I’m not sure a joint ambassadorship would be a good precedent for the U.S. diplomatic service.

Although if it happens, I’m sure it would be a hit for political contributors and über bundlers  in search of plum assignments as Mr. Ambassador and Mrs. Ambassador!


America’s Gatekeeper in El Salvador Talks to 400 Applicants a Day?

The August 22 issue of WaPo has a piece from the Partnership for Public Service on the Federal Player of the Week – this one, about America’s gatekeeper in El Salvador, a first tour foreign service officer.  The profile makes it sound as if the FSO, as “America’s gatekeeper in El Salvador” is the only one guarding the gate over there.

To borrow Ambassador Crocker’s phrase, “he is by no means alone.”

As far as I’m told, there are about a dozen or so first tour officers working at our embassy in San Salvador, all performing visa and citizen services work at the consular section.  The other thing that seems striking about this profile is that the profilee is the embassy’s Fraud Officer/Manager, a full time job in itself. That alone is not striking but speaking with “as many as 300 to 400 Salvadorans a day” is.  How many minutes can you really spend investigating each of the 400 applicants in an 8-hour workday?  Even if you spend 1.8 minute speaking with each one, you’ll be at work until 9 o’clock at night with an hour of lunch to spare.  And anyway, I have never heard of officers doing 300-400 interviews a day even in the top visa mill posts (and El Salvador is not even a visa mill).

Well, have you?

He also appears to be the Ambassador’s staff aide, which makes me wonder how he gets any sleep. Because as we all know, fraud and the front office are two of the more demanding assignment for newbies at any embassy.  And if he is serving concurrently in both positions in a section with a dozen other newbies, one has to wonder what’s going on with the embassy’s Junior Officer Rotation Program (JORP).

Excerpt below:

At just 26 years old, Vice Consul Navarro R. Moore is America’s gatekeeper in El Salvador, putting out the U.S. embassy’s welcome mat for Salvadorans seeking visas for legitimate entry to the United States, while maintaining a watchful eye for gang members, fraudulent documents and people who enter sham marriages for immigration purposes.

Moore is gratified when he can approve visas for people who want to visit family members living in the U.S. or who need life-saving medical treatment at an American hospital, but also when he can prevent people from illegally smuggling a child to the U.S. or passing off a fake birth certificate.

“We want people to come and see Disney World and enjoy the United States, but at the same time we have to follow the law and protect America and our borders,” Moore said.

Moore oversees three locally employed staff members who assist him as he searches for information and documents that detect and prevent passport and visa fraud. He speaks with as many as 300 to 400 Salvadorans a day, many of whom are intimidated about going to the embassy, and in his short time with them, he tries to put them at ease.

“He is the face of America, the first person, maybe the only person they’ll see,” said Ronald Robinson, a former State Department consul general and a mentor to Moore. “He must do his best to issue visas to those who deserve them and refuse those who can’t get them, in the most diplomatic

In this first tour of duty, Moore also handles requests for the ambassador, Mari Carmen Aponte, to participate in meetings and events, and prepares her by supplying her with pertinent information and helping with speeches.

While he may have just one foot on the diplomatic ladder’s first rung, Moore already is meeting people in high places. In his first year, Moore helped the ambassador host President Obama and the first lady, as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Read the whole thing here.

The article was reportedly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service and washington.com. Nothing against profiles but write ups like these reminds me of the “s/he walks on water” performance evaluation variety … makes me fall off my chair and hurts my brain.

US Embassy Kabul: All U.S. workers in Afghanistan deserve praise

The August 23 issue of WaPo includes the following letter from Ambassador Crocker:

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s story about State Department representative Carter Malkasian [“Walking the walk to win Afghans’ trust,” front page, Aug. 14] properly praised the work of such civilians in the transformation of Afghanistan. Mr. Malkasian was an outstanding officer, and the department was proud to have recruited, hired and trained him — first for Iraq and then for Afghanistan.

However, it is important to note that there are hundreds of foreign service officers and other federal agency workers doing similar work in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Foreign service and civil service officers are highly regarded by the military and the Afghan people. More than 400 U.S. government civilians live and work with the military in more than 80 locations outside of Kabul, under conditions of danger and hardship. Our field personnel come from the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development and other federal agencies.

Even in Kabul, where 750 U.S. civilians live and work, there is nothing easy about service in Afghanistan. Our civilians volunteered to come here and are motivated by a deep sense of patriotism and service. Many go on to other difficult assignments, in the region or elsewhere, including back-to-back tours in Afghanistan.

We appreciate that The Post featured the good work of one civilian in Afghanistan but want to make it clear that he is by no means alone.

Ryan C. Crocker, Kabul