March 21, 2012
By: Mark Rockwell
Government Security News(Riiiiight….!)
One of the members of an infamous eco-terror cell that allegedly burned its way through commercial and educational facilities in the late 1990’s was sentenced to seven years behind bars recently, but the FBI is asking for help in finding three other members who are still on the lam.
A federal judge in Seattle sentenced Justin Solondz the week of March 12 to the seven-year sentence for a wave of arson and vandalism in the Pacific Northwest against agricultural research centers and resort facilities in the late 1990’s.
Solondz, a member of “The Family” eco-activist group which authorities said, operated under the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, was indicted in 2006 for a 2001 firebombing a University of Washington research facility. The fire at the university’s Center for Urban Horticulture caused $10 million in damages. Federal authorities said Solondz made the bombs used to start the blaze. Solondz fled to China , ultimately landing in jail there on drug charges, but was expelled by the Chinese government last summer.
The FBI classifies “The Family” as an eco-terror cell and blames a swath of arsons and vandalism in the western U.S. between 1996 and 2001, including a fire at Vail Ski Resort that leveled a lodge there, causing $26 million in damages, on the group. The FBI estimated said the group caused $48 million worth of arson and vandalism damage during the period.
In summing up its pursuit and arrest of Solondz on March 20, it asked the public for help in locating three other fugitive members of the cell — Josephine Overaker, Joseph Dibee, and Rebecca Rubin – who it believes are all living overseas. It noted there is still a $50,000 reward for information leading to their arrest. It appealed for anyone with knowledge of their whereabouts to contact the agency electronically, through local, or overseas, field offices.
Dibee was indicted in 2006 on charges of arson, conspiracy, and animal enterprise terrorism. The FBI believes his is living in Syria with family members.
Overaker was indicted in 2004 and 2006 for her involvement with the 1998 Vail arson and other crimes. The agency said she may have spent time in Germany and could have settled in Spain, as she speaks fluent Spanish.
Rubin was indicted in 2006 for the Vail arson and other acts of domestic terrorism. She is a Canadian citizen, with strong family ties to Canada and may be living there, it said.
Special Agent Ted Halla in the agency’s Seattle office tied Solondz to “The Family” in 2006. “He was traveling overseas, and we started tracking him through Europe to Russia, Mongolia, and then China. He realized we were after him,” Halla said. “He liquidated his bank accounts and tried to hide his tracks online. By the summer of 2006, he disappeared in China.”
Halla said the FBI worked through its legal attaché office in Beijing, learning Solondz had been arrested in China for manufacturing drugs and sentenced to prison. He served nearly three years before the Chinese released him into FBI custody.
As part of his plea, Solondz admitted building the firebomb that was planted in the office of a University of Washington horticultural researcher. He and The Family mistakenly believed the researcher was genetically altering trees, said the FBI. The fire ruined the researcher’s work along with the work of dozens of other students and researchers.
“The Solondz case has been a long process,” Halla said. “When you are after someone for that many years, it’s a big relief to see the individual finally brought to justice.”