USA Offers Up to $5 Million #Reward For Information on Joel Shrum Murder in #Yemen

Posted: 2:47 am ET
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On March 15, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, the FBI announced a reward of up to $5 million for information on the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum in Ta’izz, Yemen in 2012. The RFJ announcement notes that at the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children. Below is the FBI announcement:

The FBI Washington Field Office, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, announced today a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who committed, conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the commission of, the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum.

On March 18, 2012, Joel Wesley Shrum, 29, was driving to his place of employment in Ta’izz, Yemen when two gunmen armed with AK-47s approached Shrum’s vehicle on a motorcycle and fired on the vehicle. Shrum was pronounced dead on the scene. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the murder. The U.S. State Department designated AQAP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2010. At the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children.

Individuals with information concerning the shooting of Joel Shrum are asked to contact the FBI or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate or submit a tip on the FBI’s website by visiting tips.fbi.gov. Tips can remain confidential. Additional information regarding Joel Shrum, including a seeking information poster with his picture, is available on the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info or on the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program website at www.rewardsforjustice.net.

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Two Mexicans Extradited in the 2011 Murder and Attempted Murder of ICE Agents in Mexico

Posted: 12:03 am ET
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In 2011, we blogged about this case here:  US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey$5 Million Reward for Information Re: Shootings of Two ICE Agents in Mexico and “Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?

On May 16, 2016, USDOJ announced that two Mexican nationals have been extradited from Mexico to face charges for their alleged participation in the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico.

The charges and extraditions were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and Director Sarah R. Saldaña of ICE.

Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, aka Loco, 28, and Alfredo Gaston Mendoza Hernandez, aka Camaron, aka Burger, 33, both of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, were charged on May 16, 2013, in a four-count indictment with murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.  The indictment was unsealed today when Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez made their initial appearances before Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia.  Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez were ordered detained without bail.

Four defendants—Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 35; Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 28; Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 33; and Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 41—previously pleaded guilty to offenses based on their roles in the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  As part of their guilty pleas, Espinoza, Rivera and Villagran admitted that they participated directly in the Feb. 15, 2011, ambush of the two special agents as part of a Los Zetas hit squad.  The fourth defendant, Flores, acknowledged assisting Zetas members after the attack.  A fifth defendant, Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, aka Safado, 35, was extradited to the United States on Oct. 1, 2015, for his participation in this attack and is currently awaiting trial.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The FBI is investigating the case with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

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US Embassy Manila on Anikow Murder: Nobody “served a day for that brutal crime.”

— Domani Spero
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In November 2012, we blogged about the murder of a spouse of a U.S. diplomat assigned to the US embassy in the Philippines (see US Embassy Manila: George Anikow, Diplomatic Spouse Killed in Early Morning Altercation; and George Anikow Murder: “A Macho Against Macho Issue” Says Philippine Police).

In an interview last week with Philippine media, Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed disappointment over the disposition of the murder case:

In an interview with ANC, Goldberg said nobody “served a day for that brutal crime.”  The diplomat is referring to the murder of US Marine Major George Anikow’s killing on November 24, 2012 at a security checkpoint in Bel-Air. The incident was partly captured in a security camera. Charged were Juan Alfonso Abastillas, Osric Cabrera, Galicano Datu III, and Crispin de la Paz.

Goldberg noted only two suspects were convicted of homicide “but were given probation” by the trial court. The two others got scot free from any charges. […] He said it’s been hard explaining to the family as to “why this happened in a case of very brutal murder.”

The Philippine Justice Department had reportedly filed murder charges previously against the four suspects who, according to reports, come from well-to-do families — Juan Alfonso Abastillas, 24; Crispin dela Paz, 28; Osric Cabrera, 27; and Galicano Datu III, 22.

News report from the Philippines indicate that the victim’s sister, Mary Anikow and his 77 year-old mother traveled to Manila to observed the trial in 2013.  “The United States is not perfect; everyone knows this. But most people generally don’t get away with murder,” Ms Anikow said.

Ambassador Goldberg in the ANC interview said that the Philippine Department of Justice promised the embassy there could be something done with regard to the probation. “But it has been appealed once, and it was denied. So it looks like it’s the end of the road,” he said.

‘Well-to-do kids accused in murder of American diplomat’s husband get visas to study in the United States’ — please, can we at least make sure we don’t end up with a headline like that?

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Peace Corps Volunteer Karen Phillips’ Gabonese Killer Sentenced to Life for 1998 Murder

— By Domani Spero

On December 16, 1998, a Peace Corps volunteer attended a swearing-in ceremony at a small city in Gabon, some 200 miles from the capital city of Libreville.  Reports said she went with three friends to a small bar near her house to celebrate, left the bar around midnight and never made it back to her house.  The next day, a young girl on her way to school found Karen Phillips  body.

This December will the 15th death anniversary of Karen Phillips, the Peace Corps volunteer murdered in the African county of Gabon. She was there to help farmers to better market their produce and teach English at a local school.

On November 19, 2013,  the Peace Corps announced that Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison. One individual was previously charged with murder and two others, including this “Rambo” were charged in connection with the killing.  Below is the full text of the announcement:

Libreville, Gabon, Nov. 19, 2013 – Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted Tuesday for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison.

Phillips served in Oyem, an agricultural city of about 40,000 in the coastal African nation of Gabon. She worked as an agro-forestry volunteer, helping local farmers market their agricultural products.

“She just loved helping people,” said Richard Phillips, Karen’s father. “That’s the type of person she was. Karen was a doer and a giver.”

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Phillips worked in Atlanta as a fundraiser for the international development organization, CARE. A native of Delaware County, Pa., Karen received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Villanova University in 1982, and a master’s degree in business administration from Fordham University in 1989.

“There is nothing harder for this agency than losing a volunteer, and after many years, I wholeheartedly hope the Phillips family can now find a sense of comfort and closure,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “I am extremely grateful to those who have relentlessly sought justice for Karen Phillips and her family for more than a decade.”

Phillips was found stabbed to death on December 17, 1998. Since her death, an investigative team led by the Gabonese judicial police, with the assistance of the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville have worked to pursue justice for Phillips. In late 2012, the government of Gabon formally requested, through the international police organization INTERPOL, that U.S. federal law enforcement assist in the investigation of the murder. The team revisited all aspects of the crime. Subsequently, Ntoutoume Nuze was identified, brought to trial, and convicted by Gabonese authorities.

“Everyone who has worked on Karen’s case over the years has been deeply moved by both her life of commitment to service and her tragic death,” Peace Corps Inspector General Kathy A. Buller said. “I hope this verdict will bring a degree of peace to her family and friends.”

According to news reports, Karen Phillips had been a PCV for less than a year when she was killed.

“Karen and volunteers Stacy Jupiter and Lynne Kraskouskas had just been to the swearing-in party on Dec. 16 when they stopped at a small bar near Phillips’ house.

As the three sipped beer and ate Chips Ahoy! cookies, a drunken man approached the women saying he was Phillips’ neighbor. Phillips brushed off his advances, Kraskouskas and Jupiter later told police.

The volunteers left the bar and parted ways at a nearby corner about midnight. Jupiter planned to walk Kraskouskas, a new volunteer, back to a training center in town. Phillips assured the two that she would be fine going home alone.”

The initial investigation focused on a former rock star/son of a diplomat who had lived in Germany, Israel, Denmark and the U.S., his cousin, and one other individual:

“A man named Ndoutoume Nzue Thierry, nicknamed “Rambo,” told police that Ondo and his cousin, Jean ClŽment Mintsa, forced Phillips into a car. Police identified Thierry as the drunk man who approached Phillips and her friends in the bar the night she died.

But Thierry abruptly changed his story after demonstrators converged on the Oyem jail where Ondo and Mintsa were being questioned. On Dec. 24, two days after implicating Ondo in Phillips’ murder, Thierry said Phillips fell on a rock while they had consensual sex. On Dec. 30, Thierry told police he attacked and stabbed her with a nail clipper. In February 1999, Thierry accused Ondo again.”

In July 2000, the three men charged were acquitted in the Phillips murder.  In 2003, Dayton Daily News did a lengthy piece on Phillips murder and her father’s pursuit for justice.

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Malian National Alhassane Ould Mohamed Indicted for 2000 Murder/Attempted Murder of US Embassy Niger Staffers

–By Domani Spero

On September 18, the USDOJ announced the indictment of Malian national, Alhassane Ould Mohamed for the alleged murder/attempted murder of U.S. Embassy Niamey’s personnel in Niger back in 2000. The individual allegedly killed DOD’s William Bultemeier, the Defense Attache System Operations Coordinator and wounded Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for U.S. Embassy Niger at the time.  Mr. Bultemeier was killed on the day he was scheduled to return to the United States.

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Via USDOJ:

Malian National Indicted In Brooklyn Federal Court For Murder Of U.S. Diplomat | September 18, 2013

An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Alhassane Ould Mohamed, also known as “Cheibani,” a Malian citizen, with the murder and attempted murder of United States Embassy personnel stationed in Niamey, Niger in December 2000.   In addition, a reward of $20,000 was announced for information that leads to the defendant’s capture.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Greg Starr, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State.

According to the indictment, in the early morning hours of December 23, 2000, the defendant and a co-conspirator accosted a group of employees of the United States Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant in Niamey, Niger.  Carrying a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle, the two men approached Department of Defense official William Bultemeier as he was about to enter his car, a white sport-utility vehicle bearing diplomatic license plates clearly indicating that it belonged to the United States Embassy.  The defendant demanded that Mr. Bultemeier turn over the keys to the diplomatic vehicle and used the pistol to shoot Mr. Bultemeier.  Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for the United States Embassy in Niger at the time, ran to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid.  The defendant’s co-conspirator then fired his AK-47 at Mr. Bultemeier and Staff Sergeant McNeely, hitting them both.  After rifling through Mr. Bultemeier’s pockets to get the car keys, the defendant and his fellow assailant drove away in the United States Embassy vehicle.

Mr. Bultemeier died of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds.  Staff Sergeant McNeely survived the shooting, and later retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

On September 13, 2013, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a sealed indictment charging the defendant with one count of murdering an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a), and one count of attempting to murder an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a).  The indictment was unsealed earlier today.

“U.S. diplomat William Bultemeier lost his life while representing his country overseas, and U.S. Marine Christopher McNeely was gravely wounded trying to protect him, all during the brazen armed carjacking allegedly perpetrated by the defendant and his confederate.  The sacrifice of Mr. Bultemeier and the courage of Staff Sergeant McNeely in service to their country will not be forgotten.  The United States will work ceaselessly to bring those who harm our diplomats and military personnel to justice,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.  Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the governments of Niger, Mali and Algeria for their substantial assistance and cooperation in connection with this investigation.  The FBI and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security are currently coordinating with foreign partners to apprehend the defendant.

“As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Bultemeier was representing the United States Government in Niger when he was callously murdered by the defendant.  U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant McNeely, who courageously attempted to come to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid, was seriously injured in the ambush.  An attack on U.S. Government personnel, whether domestically or abroad, is an attack on the United States. The perpetrator of these crimes should always be looking over his shoulders; it is only a matter of time before he is apprehended.  The FBI will continue working with its partners overseas to ensure that the defendant is captured and brought to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.

Lieutenant General Flynn expressed his deep gratitude for the long and dedicated service of the FBI, Department of Justice, and Department of State personnel involved in the effort to bring Mr. Bultemeier’s alleged murderers to justice.

“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has been working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to locate, pursue, and apprehend Mohamed since his prison escape.  With agents in more than 270 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world, Diplomatic Security is uniquely positioned for this effort,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Starr.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Zainab Ahmad, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and Trial Attorney Dan Stigall of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant: ALHASSANE OULD MOHAMED | Age: 42

According to stripes.com Mohamed was arrested in Mali two days after the killing, citing U.S. authorities. He remained in custody there until he escaped in 2002.  In late 2009, Mohamed was arrested again in Mali in the killings of four Saudi Arabian nationals in northern Niger. He was sent back to Niger where he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. He escaped from prison a second time in June.

Related items:

Unseald Indictiment Alhassane Mohamed 
Photograph of Victim-William Bultemeier 
DOJ/FBI Wanted Poster

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