Category: Law Enforcement

FBI Warns of Potential Charity Fraud Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic


Many Americans want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to charities, but the FBI is warning that scammers also want to help—they want to help themselves to your money.

Nationwide, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have received reports of scammers fraudulently soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

They are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both.

Don’t let them.

Charity scams often occur when a scammer poses as a real charity or uses the name of a real charity to get money from you.

Be careful about giving money to any charity calling you for donations and be wary if you get a call about a donation pledge that you don’t remember making.

Remember, you can’t always believe your caller ID. Scammers often spoof organizations’ phone numbers. It’s always best to research the organization telephone number yourself and call direct to verify.

Do not be pressured or rushed to donate. That is a strong indicator of a scam.

Similarly, if you receive an email purporting to be from a charitable organization, do not click on links. These could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone. Watch out for charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as email addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations. Instead, search for the charity using an internet search engine to ensure you’re connected to the actual charitable organization.

The best way to protect yourself is by doing your research.

Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a charity fraud:

  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether you’re donating through charities, social media, or crowdfunding websites.
  • Look for online reviews of charity organizations or use information from your state’s regulator of charities or from websites like the Better Business Bureau, give.org, charitynavigator.org, or charitywatch.org to check on the legitimacy of charitable organizations.
  • Before donating, ask how much of the donation will go toward the program or cause you want to support. Every organization has administrative costs, and it’s important to understand those structures.
  • Never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
  • After making a donation, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
  • Always do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus, purchasing COVID-related products online, or providing your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.

The FBI has more tips at fbi.gov/charityfraud.

If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, report it to the FBI online at tips.fbi.gov and to FTC  at ftc.gov/complaint.

Blogs to Follow:

FBI.gov (October 2020)  FBI Warns of Potential Charity Fraud Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic

International law enforcement operation targeting opioid traffickers on the Darknet results in over 170 arrests worldwide and the seizure of weapons, drugs and over $6.5 million


Darknet narcotics vendors selling to tens of thousands of U.S. residents charged

On September 22, 2020, the Department of Justice, through the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team, joined Europol to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor, a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet.

The operation, which was conducted across the United States and Europe, demonstrates the continued partnership between JCODE and Europol against the illegal sale of drugs and other illicit goods and services. Operation DisrupTor builds on the success of last year’s and the coordinated law enforcement ,one of the largest illegal online markets on the dark web..

Following the Wall Street Market takedown in May 2019, U.S. and international law enforcement agencies obtained intelligence to identify Darknet drug traffickers, resulting in a series of complementary, but separate, law enforcement investigations. Operation DisrupTor actions have resulted in the arrest of 179 Darknet drug traffickers and fraudulent criminals who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across the United States and Europe.

This operation resulted in the seizure of over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies; approximately 500 kilograms of drugs worldwide; 274 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances in the United States; and 63 firearms. 

Darknet vendor accounts were identified and attributed to real individuals selling illicit goods on Darknet market sites such as AlphaBay, Dream, WallStreet, Nightmare, Empire, White House, DeepSea, Dark Market and others. By leveraging complementary partnerships and surging resources across the U.S. government and Europol, Operation DisrupTor was used to significantly disrupt the online opioid trade and send a strong message that criminals operating on the Darknet are not beyond the reach of law enforcement. 

Operation DisrupTor led to 121 arrests in the United States including two in Canada at the request of the United States, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the United Kingdom, three in Austria, and one in Sweden. A number of investigations are still ongoing to identify the individuals behind dark web accounts.

“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”

“The 21st century has ushered in a tidal wave of technological advances that have changed the way we live,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “But as technology has evolved, so too have the tactics of drug traffickers. Riding the wave of technological advances, criminals attempt to further hide their activities within the dark web through virtual private networks and tails, presenting new challenges to law enforcement in the enduring battle against illegal drugs. Operation DisrupTor demonstrates the ability of DEA and our partners to outpace these digital criminals in this ever-changing domain, by implementing innovative ways to identify traffickers attempting to operate anonymously and disrupt these criminal enterprises.”

“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying Darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice. But our work does not end with today’s announcement. The FBI, through JCODE and our partnership with Europol, continues to be actively engaged in a combined effort to disrupt the borderless, worldwide trade of illicit drugs. The FBI will continue to use all investigative techniques and tools to identify and prosecute Darknet opioid dealers, wherever they may be located.”

“U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations has played an integral role in Operation DisrupTor which has effectively removed opioids from our communities,” said ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner. “It has been an honor to work alongside our domestic and international law enforcement partners and pursue bad actors hiding on the Darknet. Our trained cyber analysts and investigators have conducted undercover efforts that target dark website operators, vendors and prolific buyers of these dangerous drugs. HSI special agents employ unique investigative capabilities to trace and identify the proceeds stemming from the distribution and online sales of fentanyl and other illicit opioids. These efforts will continue to thwart a significant amount of criminal drug sale activity and deter criminals believing they can operate with anonymity on the Darknet.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has worked diligently for years to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking and preserve the integrity of the mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “Most importantly, these efforts provide a safe environment for postal employees and the American public. Today’s announcement serves as an outstanding example of the worldwide impact Postal Inspectors can make through our ever-growing partnerships with federal and international law enforcement agencies. On behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, we offer our sincere appreciation to all of our partners in this operation who helped protect the nation’s mail, and we pledge to never relent in our pursuit of criminals seeking to exploit the U.S. mail.”

“Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous,” said Edvardas Šileris, the Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre. “Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen.”

The extensive operation, which lasted nine months, resulted in over dozens of federal prosecutions including:

  • The Los Angeles JCODE Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces. Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit drug sales to customers in at least 35 states and numerous countries around the world. During law enforcement actions in Southern California earlier this year, members of JCODE arrested five defendants and seized approximately 120 pounds of methamphetamine, seven kilograms of MDMA and five firearms. Two of the five – Teresa McGrath, 34, of Sunland-Tujunga, and Mark Chavez, 41, of downtown Los Angeles – have since pleaded guilty to narcotics-trafficking and other offenses, and each faces a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence. As the investigation continued, the Los Angeles JCODE Task Force made additional seizures, including $1.6 million in cryptocurrency, 11 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of pills pressed with methamphetamine. Andres Bermudez, 37, of Palmdale, California, who allegedly was a main supplier of methamphetamine to the “Stealthgod” crew, was charged last week with a narcotics-trafficking offense that carry a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. He is considered a fugitive.
  • Arden McCann, 32, of Quebec, Canada, was charged with conspiring to import drugs into the United States and money laundering conspiracy, in a four-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Atlanta. According to court documents, the defendant is alleged to have imported alprazolam, fentanyl, U-47700, and fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, 4-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, acryl fentanyl, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl into the United States from Canada and China. The superseding indictment alleges that fentanyl analogues the defendant imported into the United States resulted in a non-fatal overdose in April 2016, and fentanyl the defendant imported into the United States resulted in an overdose death in December 2016.
  • Khlari Sirotkin, 36, of Colorado; Kelly Stephens, 32, of Colorado; Sean Deaver, 36, of Nevada; Abby Jones, 37, of Nevada; and Sasha Sirotkin, 32, of California, were charged with drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, in a 21-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to court documents, the defendants are alleged to be members of one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States and allegedly specialized in the manufacturing and distribution of more than one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills and laundered approximately $2.8 million over the course of the conspiracy. The pressed fentanyl pills, along with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, were shipped to the Southern District of Ohio and throughout the country. DEA, FBI, FDA, HSI and USPIS agents seized 2.5 kilograms of fentanyl; 5,095 pressed xanax; 50 suboxone; 16.5 grams of cocaine; 37 grams of crystal meth; 12 grams of black tar heroin; an industrial pill press; 5,908 pounds of dried marijuana with an estimated street value of $9 million; $80,191 in cash, 10 firearms and one pound of fentanyl.
  • The FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, successfully thwarted a firebomb attack plot involving explosives, firearms, the Darknet, prescription opioid trafficking, cryptocurrency, and sophisticated money laundering. William Anderson Burgamy, 33, of Hanover, Maryland, and Hyrum T. Wilson, 41, of Auburn, Nebraska, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to charges related to a conspiracy to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy, who is not a pharmacist, operated as the Darknet vendor NeverPressedRX since at least August 2019. Wilson, who was a licensed pharmacist, illegally mailed to Burgamy over 19,000 dosage units of prescription medications, including opioids, from his pharmacy in Nebraska. Burgamy illegally sold prescription drugs through his Darknet vendor account to customers nationwide, and claimed at one point that he made nearly $1 million total. Burgamy and Wilson agreed that Burgamy and another individual would carry multiple firearms during the attack operation and use explosives, specifically Molotov cocktails enhanced with Styrofoam as a thickening agent, to burn the victim pharmacy down in furtherance of their drug trafficking scheme. Law enforcement agents seized thousands of opioid pills, eight unsecured firearms, including two loaded AR-15 assault rifles with high capacity magazines, and over $19,000 cash. Prior to Burgamy’s arrest in April 2020, which uncovered and thwarted the firebombing plot, Burgamy and Wilson fully intended on the attack occurring after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
  • Aaron Brewer, 39, of Corsicana, Texas, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance in a two-count indictment returned by a grand jury in the Northern District of Texas. According to court documents, the defendant allegedly sold cocaine, heroin, and other drugs via the dark web. He allegedly accepted payment in cryptocurrency, primarily bitcoin, and then shipped the drugs to customers’ addresses through the U.S. mail and other shipping services. Following Brewer’s arrest on July 2, agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI Dallas Field Office seized roughly 650 grams of black tar heroin, cocaine, and OxyContin, two computers, and more than $870 in postage stamps, as well as a ledger outlining 757 drug shipments sent to 609 unique addresses between December 2019 and March 2020.

An indictment and criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Operation DisrupTor was a collaborative initiative across JCODE members, including the Department of Justice; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Department of Defense. Local, state and other federal agencies also contributed to Operation DisrupTor investigations. 

The investigations leading to Operation DisrupTor were significantly aided by essential support and coordination by the Department of Justice’s multi-agency Special Operations Division, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the National Cyber Joint Investigative Task Force, Europol and its Dark Web team and international partners Eurojust, Austrian Federal Investigation Bureau, Cyprus Police, German Federal Criminal Police Office, Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Portuguese Judicial Police, Dutch Police, Swedish Police, the British National Crime Agency, Australia’s Western Australia Police Force, and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Federal prosecutions are being conducted in more than 20 Federal districts, including: the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of Columbia, the District of Connecticut, the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of Georgia, the District of Hawaii, the Western District of Missouri, the District of New Jersey, the Western District of North Carolina, the Northern District of Ohio, the Southern District of Ohio, District of Oregon, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of the Virgin Islands and the Western District of Washington.

JCODE is an FBI-led Department of Justice initiative, which works closely with the DEA-led, multi-agency, Special Operations Division to support, coordinate and de-conflict investigations targeting for disruption and dismantlement of the online sale of illegal drugs, especially fentanyl and other opioids. Additionally, JCODE targets the trafficking of weapons and other illicit goods and services on the internet. Operation DisrupTor illustrates the investigative power of federal and international partnerships to combat the borderless nature of online criminal activity.

Blogs to Follow:

DEA.gov (September 2020)  International law enforcement operation targeting opioid traffickers on the Darknet results in over 170 arrests worldwide and the seizure of weapons, drugs and over $6.5 million

Twelve charged in multi-year mortgage fraud scheme


Twelve defendants in Georgia have been charged in a mortgage fraud scheme allegedly spanning more than four years and resulting in the approval of more than 100 mortgages based on fabricated documents and false information. 

Many of the loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) resulting in claims being paid for mortgages that have gone through loan modification.

“These defendants allegedly used their knowledge of the real estate lending process to manipulate the system for their own benefit,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Mortgage fraudsters threaten the soundness of the real estate market in our community.  We will investigate and charge anyone who takes advantage of our mortgage lending system for their own personal gain.”

“These charges represent the government’s commitment toward combating such alleged criminal activity,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “We will steadfastly protect American citizens and the real estate market from predators who drag down our economy by deceit to line their own pockets.”

“What we have here is a group of mortgage industry professionals that have allegedly perpetrated a sophisticated mortgage fraud for profit scheme that was designed to enrich themselves at the expense of a federal housing program,” said Wyatt Achord, Special Agent in Charge, Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “The efforts that brought forward these charges demonstrate that when law enforcement is made aware of such schemes, we will commit the necessary resources to make sure that fraudsters are brought to justice.”  

“As charged, the defendants engaged in a multiyear scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) will investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize these Government Sponsored Entities supervised and regulated by FHFA”, said FHFA-OIG Special Agent in-Charge Edwin Bonano.

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court: The defendants participated in a scheme in which homebuyers and real estate agents submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce mortgage lenders to fund mortgages. 

Listing agents Eric Hill and Robert Kelske represented a major nationwide homebuilder, and helped more than 100 homebuyers who were looking to buy a home, but who were unqualified to obtain a mortgage, commit fraud.  The agents instructed the homebuyers as to what type of assets they needed to claim to have in the bank, and what type of employment and income they needed to submit in their mortgage applications.

Hill and Kelske then coordinated with multiple document fabricators, including defendants Fawziyyah Connor and Stephanie Hogan, who altered the homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate the their assets and to create bank entries reflecting false direct deposits from an employer selected by the real estate agent.  The document fabricators also generated fake earnings statements that matched the direct deposit entries to make it appear that the homebuyer was employed, and earning income, from a fake employer.  Other participants in the scheme then acted as employment verifiers and responded to phone calls or emails from lenders to falsely verify the homebuyers’ employment.  Defendants Jerod Little, Renee Little, Maurice Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontenot acted as employment verifiers.  Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and submission of the false information so that the lies to the lenders were consistent. 

In another aspect of the scheme, real estate agents Anthony Richard and Cephus Chapman falsely claimed to represent homebuyers as their selling agents in order to receive commissions from the home sales. 

In reality, these real estate agents had never even met the homebuyers they claimed to represent. 

To avoid detection, the agents often notified closing attorneys that they would not be available for the home closing, and sent wire instructions for the receipt of their commissions.  When these purported selling agents received their unearned commissions, they kicked back the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske for enabling them to be added to the deal, keeping a small share for their role in the scheme.

The following defendants have been charged as part of these conspiracies:

•         Eric Hill, 50, of Tyrone, Georgia (charged by Information)

•         Robert Kelske, 52, of Smyrna, Georgia

•         Fawziyyah Connor, 41, of Tyrone, Georgia

•         Stephanie Hogan, 57, of Norcross, Georgia

•         Jerod Little, 42, of McDonough, Georgia

•         Renee Little, 33, of McDonough, Georgia

•         Maurice Lawson, 36, of Powder Springs, Georgia

•         Todd Taylor, 54, of Fairburn, Georgia

•         Paige McDaniel, 49, of Stockbridge, Georgia

•         Donald Fontenot, 52, of Locust Grove, Georgia (charged by Information)

•         Anthony Richard, 44, of Locust Grove, Georgia

•         Cephus Chapman, 49, of Warner Robins, Georgia

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment and informations only contain charges.  The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Prout is prosecuting the case.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (September 2020)  Twelve charged in multi-year mortgage fraud scheme

U.S. Marshals Find 39 Missing Children in Georgia During ‘Operation Not Forgotten’


Investigators charge individuals for sex offender violations, other related charges

The U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, in conjunction with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Georgia state and local agencies, led a two-week operation in August in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, to rescue endangered missing children.

“Operation Not Forgotten” resulted in the rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 children and the arrest of nine criminal associates. Additionally, investigators cleared 26 arrest warrants and filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference. The 26 warrants cleared included 19 arrest warrants for a total of nine individuals arrested, some of whom had multiple warrants.

“The U.S. Marshals Service is fully committed to assisting federal, state, and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children, in addition to their primary fugitive apprehension mission,” said Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”

These missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions. Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their well-being. USMS investigators were able to confirm each child’s location in person and assure their safety and welfare.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the U.S. Marshals’ authority to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children,
regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved. The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act.

In 2019, the USMS helped recover 295 missing children based on requests for assistance from law enforcement and has contributed to the recovery of a missing child in 75 percent of cases received. Additionally, of the missing children recovered, 66 percent were recovered within seven days of the USMS assisting with the case. Since its partnership with NCMEC began in 2005, the agency has recovered more than 1,800 missing children.

“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child,” said Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit. “It’s hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them the help they need.”

This initiative was the culmination of several months of planning and coordination between the USMS, NCMEC, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

B-roll of “Operation Not Forgotten” can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d0dmhirspqtht5x/Operation%20Not%20Forgotten%20B-roll.mp4?dl=0

Photos of Operation Not Forgotten (open in Google Chrome):
https://www.flickr.com/gp/usmarshals/F3210D

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.

Blogs to Follow:

USMarshals.gov (August 2020) U.S. Marshals Find 39 Missing Children in Georgia During ‘Operation Not Forgotten’

Former Army Special Forces Officer Charged in Russian Espionage Conspiracy


Former Green Beret Allegedly Conspired to Provide National Defense Information to Russian Intelligence

A Gainesville, Virginia, man was arrested on Friday for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with United States national defense information.

According to court documents, from December 1996 to January 2011, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, a former member of the U.S. Army, allegedly conspired with agents of a Russian intelligence service.  During that time, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents.  In 1997, Debbins was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.

“Two espionage arrests in the past week — Ma in Hawaii and now Debbins in Virginia — demonstrate that we must remain vigilant against espionage from our two most malicious adversaries — Russia and China,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy.  Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

“Our military is tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting our nation from its adversaries, and its service members make incredible sacrifices in service of that duty,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “When service members collude to provide classified information to our foreign adversaries, they betray the oaths they swore to their country and their fellow service members.  As this indictment reflects, we will be steadfast and dogged in holding such individuals accountable.”

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and  his country,” said Alan E. Kohler, Jr.,  FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division.  “Debbins is accused of giving Russian intelligence officers sensitive information about the units in which he once served and also providing the names of other service members so Russia could try to recruit them.  These actions cannot stand and the FBI will aggressively pursue such cases.”

“According to the allegations, Mr. Debbins knowingly provided information to self-proclaimed members of Russia’s Intelligence Service, the GRU,” said James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the American people and his fellow service men and women should have been able to trust Debbins with secrets and information.  Debbins allegedly fell very short of that and exploited his role in the military and his fellow service members to benefit one of our top adversaries for years. Today’s charges are another example of the dedicated and unrelenting efforts of the FBI and our partners, domestic and international, to aggressively pursue and bring to justice those who violate this sacred trust and place our national security at risk.”

Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins allegedly provided the Russian intelligence agents with information that he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army, including information about his chemical and Special Forces units.  In 2008, after leaving active duty service, Debbins disclosed to the Russian intelligence agents classified information about his previous activities while deployed with the Special Forces.  Debbins also provided the Russian intelligence agents with the names of, and information about, his former Special Forces team members so that the agents could evaluate whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.

Debbins is charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government.  If convicted, Debbins faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director of FBI Washington Field Office made the announcement.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas W. Traxler and James L. Trump, and Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Terwilliger greatly appreciate the assistance of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, and Army Counterintelligence, along with the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police and MI5.

An indictment is merely an accusation.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (August 2020) Former Army Special Forces Officer Charged in Russian Espionage Conspiracy