Home News Stories 2006 January 'Operation Backfire' Nets 11 Indictments
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'Operation Backfire' Nets 11 Indictments

Eco-Terror Indictments
‘Operation Backfire’ Nets 11


Vail ski resort in flames
The arson at the Vail Ski Resort in Vail,
Colorado, in 1998 caused an estimated
$12 million in damages.

On 1/20, 11 people were charged with acts of domestic terrorism on behalf of the extremist Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) over a five-year period.

The 65-count indictment alleges the defendants committed acts of domestic terrorism between 1996 and 2001 in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California, and Colorado.  Specifically, the indictment includes charges related to arson, conspiracy, use of destructive devices, and destruction of an energy facility.

The defendants are implicated in 17 attacks, including the $12 million arson of the Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado, in 1998 and the sabotage of a high-tension power line near Bend, Oregon, in 1999. The indictment follows a series of arrests on Dec. 7, 2005 and again earlier this month. Three suspects named in the indictment are believed to be outside the U.S.

“Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what the motive,” FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said during a press conference Friday at the Department of Justice. “There’s a clear difference between constitutionally protected advocacy—which is the right of all Americans—and violent criminal activity.”

Terrorism, both international and domestic, is the FBI’s top investigative priority. In this case, the FBI’s Portland field office in 2004 consolidated seven independent field office investigations and dubbed it “Operation Backfire.” A year-long investigation, aided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, yielded evidence of an ongoing conspiracy by members of ELF and ALF. On Jan. 19, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eugene, Oregon, obtained an indictment of criminal conspiracy for the following individuals:

  • Joseph Dibee
  • Chelsea Dawn Gerlach
  • Sarah, Kendall Harvey
  • Daniel Gerard McGowan
  • Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff
  • Josephine Sunshine Overaker
  • Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul
  • Rebecca Rubin
  • Suzanne Savoie
  • Darren Todd Thurston
  • Kevin M. Tubbs
“Today’s indictment proves that we will not tolerate any group that terrorizes the American people, no matter its intentions or objectives,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez.

The defendants are accused of attacks on federal land and animal management sites, private meat packing plants, lumber facilities, and a car dealership with damages reaching $80 million. In 2004, the FBI estimated ELF, ALF and related extremist groups had committed more than 1,100 criminal acts since 1976 with damage estimates over $100 million.

Director Mueller called the indictments “a substantial blow” to domestic terror groups and said they should have a “dramatic impact on persons who contemplate these crimes.”

“Persons who conduct this kind of activity are going to spend a long time in jail, regardless of their motive,” he said.

- Director Mueller’s Remarks

Note: The individuals pictured or identified here may have been apprehended or may no longer be wanted by law enforcement since the above information was posted on this website. Please check our Wanted by the FBI website or contact your local FBI office for up-to-date information.