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Back to Archives | Back to August 2005 Contents 

Operation Global Pursuit: In Pursuit of the World's Most Dangerous Fugitives and Terrorists

By Michael Bayer, Branch Chief, Criminal Investigative Liaison, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State

he U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security is one of America's most potent assets in the fight against terrorism and crime. In addition to serving as the security and law enforcement arm of the State Department, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) supports police departments and law enforcement agencies with their investigative needs abroad. For example, DS agents coordinated with the Arlington, Virginia, Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service to find Thomas Koucky, an admitted child molester who fled the United States to avoid prosecution. Within two days of learning of the case, DS agents located Koucky in Guatemala and returned him to the United States.

The Role of DS
With more than 1,400 special agents assigned in the United States and to diplomatic missions in 188 countries, DS is the most widely represented American law enforcement organization abroad. Serving overseas as regional security officers, DS special agents provide security for U.S. embassies, consulates, and other U.S. facilities. They are also responsible for safeguarding American diplomats and civilian U.S. government personnel and their respective families.

In the United States, DS manages a dignitary protection program comparable in size and scope to that of the U.S. Secret Service. In addition to protecting the U.S. secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, DS special agents provide security for foreign dignitaries and internationally protected persons who visit the United States (such as the Dalai Lama, members of royal families, and others). In Afghanistan, DS agents protect President Hamid Karzai, in conjunction with Afghan security forces.

Although their principal function is to provide security for the safe conduct of American policy abroad, DS agents also conduct investigations. Agents investigate international travel document fraud related to the criminal exploitation of U.S. passports and visas. The visa and passport fraud program focuses on enterprises that directly support transnational crime and terrorism. These investigations often lead to organized crime rings, international traffickers of women and children, money launderers, arms dealers, drug smugglers, fraudsters, and international terrorists.

During the course of their day-to-day work, regional security officers forge solid working relationships with their foreign law enforcement counterparts. Developing these relationships enables officers to operate easily and effectively abroad. The bureau's success in large-scale investigations, combined with a substantial overseas presence and close relationships with host-country police, places DS in a unique position to have a powerful impact on transnational crime.

Although DS historically has honored requests for overseas assistance, the bureau formalized the process in 1993 with the creation of the Criminal Investigative Liaison Branch (CIL). CIL supports American law enforcement agencies and police departments with their investigative needs abroad. Since its creation, CIL has answered an average of 3,000 law enforcement requests for assistance each year.

The bureau does its best to assist any federal or local law enforcement entity that requests assistance. "When we can render effective law enforcement assistance we are, in effect, helping ourselves and the American public-by improving our own security mission, enhancing U.S. border security, and providing tangible economic benefit to the American taxpayer," states Joe D. Morton, director of the Diplomatic Security Service. "Whenever we catch notorious fugitives, or break up organized crime gangs, or demolish fraud rings that drain the U.S. economy-that benefits the average American and that's where we can really earn our keep. The DS criminal investigative outreach program is a high-gain, no-lose endeavor for us."

As part of a strategy to integrate security and law enforcement, DS leadership developed and implemented Operation Global Pursuit, which has four major components: locating international fugitives, providing specialized and expert international investigative case assistance, child advocacy, and the Rewards for Justice program.

International Fugitive Program
DS provides assistance to all federal and local law enforcement in locating fugitives abroad; however, efforts are predicated on a formal agreement with the marshals service. In 2001, as the culmination of a long-standing partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service, DS established a permanent liaison position at marshals' headquarters. The role of the liaison is to assist in tracking and returning U.S. fugitives who flee overseas. The program has been highly successful and has resulted in the return of hundreds of fugitives.

For example, in 2004, the DS partnership with the Marshals Service resulted in the return of 104 fugitives. Among the fugitives were 11 murderers, 25 pedophiles, 16 narcotics traffickers, and a multiple murderer. Also arrested were two fugitives who had killed police officers, and two fugitives on the marshals' top 15 most wanted list.

The following are some noteworthy success stories from the DS International Fugitive Program.

Thomas Koucky: Mr. Koucky was an admitted molester of more than 300 boys. In early July 2004, an Arlington, Virginia, magistrate released Koucky on a $3,000 bond. Koucky promptly fled to Guatemala. Shortly thereafter, the Washington, D.C., media aired stories about the case and Koucky's suspected flight to Guatemala. CIL special agents who saw the report immediately offered assistance to the police department and Marshals Service. Within a few hours, an investigator for the regional security office in Guatemala City spotted Koucky in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

By early evening, the regional security officer had developed an operations plan with the Guatemalan National Police. At 6:00 a.m. the next day, police surrounded the building in which Koucky was living; by 7:00 a.m. he was in custody. The Guatemalan National Police quickly transferred custody to the regional security officer, and by 6:00 p.m. the same day, DS special agents, marshals, and Arlington County police officers escorted Koucky to the Arlington County jail. Less than 36 hours after learning of the case, DS agents had located Koucky, coordinated his arrest, and returned him to the local police department. Koucky received a 10-year sentence in Virginia. He is awaiting sentencing in Maryland, where the bulk of the charges are still pending.

Michael Webster: In 2003 the U.S. Marshals Service requested assistance from DS in locating Michael Webster. Webster was one of their top 15 fugitives. He was wanted for aggravated sexual abuse of three children and was a prime suspect in a homicide investigation in the Chicago area. The marshals believed Webster had fled to Belize.

After several months of running leads, the regional security officer in Belize learned that Webster might be hiding in Ladyville, an enclave 20 minutes outside of Belize City. The regional security officer quickly dispatched his best investigator (a foreign national who works for the U.S. embassy) to the area and positively identified Webster. The regional security officer met with his Belizean law enforcement colleagues and together they developed a plan to apprehend Webster.

On the morning of July 1, 2003, the DS special agent and a team of local police officers approached the shack where Webster was staying. Suddenly, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Webster burst through the back door. The regional security officer pursued and single-handedly tackled Webster in the swampy jungle. Police arrested Webster, and on December 13, 2003, Webster was extradited to the United States.

Reinaldo Silvestre: In September 1999, television's America's Most Wanted featured Reinaldo Silvestre as the Butcher of South Beach. Silvestre mutilated dozens of people who believed him to be a plastic surgeon. In one case, Silvestre allegedly inserted female breast implants into the lower chest of a male bodybuilder. The bodybuilder had asked for pectoral implants in his upper chest to enhance his muscles.

Silvestre was on the Miami Beach, Florida, Police Department's top 10 list. In April 2003, the police department received information that Silvestre was teaching and practicing medicine in Belize. Again, a DS regional security officer and local police officials worked closely to locate and arrest Silvestre. Silvestre believed he could avoid extradition by asserting his Cuban citizenship, but he was extradited to the U.S. last November.

As noted by Robert Finan, assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service, "Through this unique alliance, Diplomatic Security provides the U.S. Marshals Service with an operational presence overseas that allows us to complete our mission without the expense of opening numerous foreign offices. DS is an incredible force multiplier for us. Fairly often, we are given unreasonable parameters by a host nation to get a fugitive out of a country. We can rely on DS to be there for us. We may not be able to get to Uganda in 24 hours, but we do have a regional security officer who is already there, ready to strap on some cuffs and hop on a flight with a fugitive in tow."

Specialized Investigative Case Assistance
With special agents located in 188 countries, DS is ready to assist American law enforcement officers with overseas investigations. In many cases, DS can provide the most critical piece of information or evidence for an investigation.

In October 2004 Corporal George Cronin, a criminal investigator for the Pennsylvania State Police, called CIL in Washington, D.C., to request assistance in a last-ditch effort to solve an 11-year-old murder case. In late 1993 the Pennsylvania State Police had discovered the nude body of an unidentified woman. Police believed the woman was Natalia Andreevna Miller, a Russian who had immigrated to the United States in the hopes of marrying an American. Because police could not positively identify the body, they were unable to arrest the prime suspect even though there was considerable evidence.

DS Special Agent Sarah Cloeter responded to the request. She advised the police that the regional security officer in Russia could probably locate the woman's parents if police could provide names. The state police investigated further and forwarded several potential names of Miller's parents. The police also indicated that Miller's parents were more than likely from Saint Petersburg, Russia. This information was relayed to a regional security officer assigned to the consulate general in Saint Petersburg.

Within a day, the officer had located and contacted Miller's parents. The parents went to the consulate to provide blood samples, which were then sent to the state police via DS headquarters. DNA analysis confirmed the identity of Jane Doe as Miller, and police made an arrest shortly thereafter. "It was a real-life episode of Cold Case Files," said Skip Ebert, the district attorney in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. "What DS can bring to the table is fantastic. I never knew these folks existed before."

Child Advocacy
Aside from the global war on terrorism and homeland security, few issues are of greater importance than child advocacy. The Department of State and many other U.S. government agencies have made child advocacy a high priority. As part of its global pursuit initiative, the Criminal Investigations Division implemented a policy whereby DS agents serving abroad focus their available time and resources on children's issues, especially with regard to the sexual exploitation of children. As Doug Quiram, the chief of the Criminal Investigations Division, states, "DS's worldwide presence and aggressive pursuit of child predators overseas means that the number of safe havens for pedophiles to conduct their crimes is constantly getting smaller."

In 2004 the bureau was instrumental in locating, capturing, and returning 25 pedophiles who were hiding overseas. According to the Amber Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the average pedophile molests more than 360 children in a career. Assuming that these child molesters were arrested in midcareer, it translates into 4,500 children who will not experience molestation.

"Protecting others is our primary mission, and there is no greater or nobler cause than the protection of our children," said Morton, "but let's face it-the real reason we do this for children is because we can. It's the right thing to do. On a human level we feel a moral obligation and a duty to strike at the atrocity of child sexual predation as forcefully as possible."

A prime example of the bureau's capabilities is the assistance DS provided to Operation Lost Innocence. On September 13, 2002, U.S. postal inspectors and Miami, Florida, police arrested Angel Rafael Mariscal for producing child pornography. Mariscal was accused of producing and distributing videos featuring him and others engaging in sex acts with minors. Subsequent investigation revealed sexual abuse, on camera, of more than 100 children. After further, careful investigation, officials determined that the videos had been filmed in Cuba.

Unfortunately, the prospects of conducting any investigation in Cuba seemed remote because the United States maintains no official relationship with Cuba. Still, local police contacted DS to see if any assistance was possible. DS worked with the State Department to obtain a special dispensation that would allow U.S. officers to work with Cuban police.

Once the dispensation was approved, the DS regional security officer assigned to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana contacted local police. After initially expressing astonishment at the request, Cuban authorities enthusiastically agreed to help. Soon thereafter, police located the victims. The DS special agent gathered evidence, interviewed the victims, provided written reports, and took photographs of the locations where the abuses had occurred.

At the trial, the government presented evidence that Mariscal had traveled to Cuba and Ecuador frequently over a seven-year period to produce child pornography. The government also produced evidence that Mariscal used the U.S. mail or Federal Express to distribute his CD-ROMs and VHS tapes. In November 2004 Mariscal received a sentence of 100 years in prison for his crimes. "Without DS, none of the child victims would have been identified, nor would have any of the co-conspirators," said Inspector Ray Smith, national program manager of the child exploitation section, which oversaw the investigation for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "The case against Mariscal would clearly not have been as strong."

The Protect Act
According to Morton, another important tool in the bureau's child advocacy arsenal is the Protect Act, a coordinated effort with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). President Bush signed the Protect Act into law on April 30, 2003. The act provides U.S. law enforcement agencies with powerful new tools to arrest and seek prosecution of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who commit sex crimes against children overseas.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the lead investigating agency for violations of the Protect Act. However, because these crimes are committed overseas, DS works very closely with DHS to identify, investigate, and prosecute American pedophiles who commit child sex crimes abroad.

"ICE agents regularly work with Diplomatic Security Service agents on child sex tourism and sex trafficking investigations in countries like Cambodia and Thailand, and they've proven to be a valuable ally," said Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Investigating these types of horrific crimes, where you have people crossing borders and sexually exploiting women and children, is a complex undertaking that requires strong interagency cooperation and a shared commitment to bringing these predators to justice."

Some of the very first Protect Act investigations were conducted in Cambodia, primarily because the officer assigned to the embassy in Phnom Penh had established strong ties to the local police.

In December 2003, Cambodian police, acting on a tip, arrested Richard Schmidt, a U.S. citizen, for allegedly sexually molesting Cambodian boys between the ages of 10 to 14. The regional security officer in Phnom Penh coordinated with ICE and local police to search Schmidt's residence. Police seized a large number of incriminating documents and forensic evidence. During the search, the officer discovered documents indicating that Schmidt had been charged with similar crimes in the Philippines in early 2003.

Shortly after Schmidt's arrest, the regional security officer learned that the Cambodian investigative judge had released Schmidt from custody. The DS and ICE agents quickly arranged a meeting with the judge. During the meeting, agents presented evidence on Schmidt's predisposition to prey on children. Agents requested that Schmidt be taken into custody. The judge refused the request. The next day, Schmidt allegedly raped a 13-year-old boy.

Police again arrested Schmidt, but they feared that Schmidt would once again be released. At that point, the DS agent enlisted the aid of the U.S. ambassador. Shortly thereafter, the Cambodian government provided assurance that Schmidt would not be released. Instead, Schmidt would be expelled from the country and sent to the United States as soon as the embassy could arrange for his removal.

On May 25, 2004, Schmidt was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for Protect Act violations. Before he went to Cambodia, Schmidt had been convicted on child molestation charges in Maryland and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He had been released on parole for those charges after 13 years.

Rewards for Justice
Perhaps the most important facet of Operation Global Pursuit is the Rewards for Justice program. Under the program, the secretary of state may offer rewards of up to $5 million for information that prevents or favorably resolves acts of international terrorism against U.S. persons or property worldwide. Rewards may also be paid for information leading to the arrest or conviction of terrorists attempting, committing, conspiring to commit, or aiding and abetting in the commission of such acts.

The secretary of state may offer larger rewards if necessary to combat terrorism and protect the United States from terrorist attacks. Rewards of up to $50 million have been offered for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, other senior al-Qaeda leaders, and Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. Rewards of up to $10 million have also been offered for former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and former vice chairman of the Iraqi Republican Command Council Izzat Al-Doori.

The Rewards for Justice program has been effective. Since its inception in the mid-1980s, the United States has paid more than $57 million to 43 individuals. These individuals provided credible information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.

Some noteworthy success stories include the following:
Ramzi Yousef: Ramzi Yousef masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. In February 1995 an individual provided information to the DS special agents assigned to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan about the location of Yousef. The informant had been motivated to come forward after seeing Yousef's photo on a matchbook offering a $2 million reward (the maximum reward possible at that time).

he DS agents coordinated an arrest plan with the Pakistani police. Just a few days after receiving the information, Pakistani police officers, supported by DS agents, arrested Yousef. The DS source received the $2 million reward.

Rashid Daoud al-Owhali: Shortly after the August 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, an individual contacted U.S. investigators to report a suspicious person. The person had been injured in the bombing and did not speak Swahili or English. The source promised to monitor the movements of the person and to remain in contact with investigators. On August 12, 1998, the source led Kenyan Criminal Investigations Department officers and FBI agents to Rashid Daoud al-Owhali, one of the conspirators in the bombing. The source received a $3.5 million reward.

Edgar Navarro: In October 2003 an individual saw a 60 Minutes II segment on three Americans who had been kidnapped after their plane had crashed in Colombia on February 13, 2003. The kidnappers were members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This source, along with two friends, contacted the Colombian security forces and the U.S. embassy in Bogota to report the location of the camp of Edgar Navarro, a FARC commander believed to be involved in the kidnapping.

The three sources then hiked through the jungle to lead the Colombian security forces to Navarro's camp site. On October 19, 2003, the Colombian forces entered the camp site to arrest Navarro and his unit. A gun battle ensued, killing Navarro and 11 of his bodyguards. The Colombian forces recovered an M-4 rifle that had been issued to one of the kidnapped Americans. The sources received a reward of $300,000 each.

Uday and Qusay Hussein: On July 3, 2003, the United States offered a reward of up to $15 million each for information leading to the location of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the sons of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. An informant, motivated by the reward, provided information on the sons' location to U.S. officials in Iraq.

The next day, the Hussein brothers were killed in a confrontation with the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul. The informant received a payment of $30 million.

A Global Force
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has provided the U.S. government and the Department of State with more than 88 years of security and law enforcement service. Working in partnership with law enforcement officers, DS achieves results. "The Bureau of Diplomatic Security routinely goes above and beyond the call of duty," said David Zielinski, assistant inspector general of the Peace Corps (the division that investigates violent crimes against Peace Corps volunteers). "In my 40 years of law enforcement experience, the level of cooperation that we receive from DS is unprecedented. As regional security officers, they are an amazingly effective one- or two-person law enforcement force, much like the territorial sheriffs and deputies in the old west."

According to Morton, "We have located and returned the worst of the worst-fugitives who have fled justice. We've put criminals behind bars, and captured terrorists. To those individuals, Diplomatic Security represents the long, long arm of U.S. law enforcement." ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 8, August 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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