FBI says it foiled planned Fourth of July attack in Cleveland

admin   •   July 3, 2018   •   1828

Demetrius Pitts, 48, arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, is seen in this booking photo taken while in custody with North Olmsted Police Department in North Olmsted, Ohio, U.S., July 2, 2018. Courtesy North Olmsted Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

FBI officials have arrested a man who discussed setting off a bomb during a Fourth of July event in Cleveland, the bureau’s top agent in the Ohio City said on Monday (July 2).

Demetrius Pitts, who had expressed allegiance to the al Qaeda militant group, was arrested on Sunday (July 1) after a meeting with an undercover FBI agent where he said he planned to plant a bomb at the event celebrating the U.S. Independence Day holiday and would also target other locations in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Pitts, 48, is from the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, Ohio, the FBI said in a statement.

“Just last week, this defendant was walking around downtown Cleveland conducting reconnaissance on what he thought was a large scale attack planned for the Fourth of July,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herbert said.

Cities typically ramp up security around such events.

In 2015, U.S. law enforcement officials said they had arrested more than 10 people inspired by the Islamic State militant group ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, saying the arrests had disrupted planned attacks. — Reuters

Zoom video conferencing app addresses privacy issues amid FBI scrutiny

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 3, 2020

The video conferencing app, Zoom, has announced they are already addressing the privacy and security issues raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to ‘Zoombombing’ reports.

In a statement, Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan said the company acknowledges the reports of users regarding privacy issues, saying these reports would help make the company better for its customers.

“Dedicated journalists and security researchers have also helped to identify pre-existing ones. We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting – about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies,” he said.

The FBI said they received several reports in the United States that there has been an incident of ‘Zoombombing’ or video conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.

Yuan said they already began implementing changes to address their privacy issues. These include training sessions, adding protective features and updating their privacy policy.

“Our chief concern, now and always, is making users happy and ensuring that the safety, privacy, and security of our platform is worthy of the trust you all have put in us,” Yuan said. AAC

FBI arrests 3 members of Phl-based church for fundraising, immigration fraud

Marje Pelayo   •   January 30, 2020

LOS ANGELES, USA — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday (January 29) arrested the top three members of a Philippine-based church for charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

A federal complaint alleged that Guia Cabactulan, 59, the top Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) official in the US; Marissa Duenas, 41; and Amanda Estopare, 48 of the KOJC facilitated the entry of church members to the United States to work as fundraisers for a church-owned charity while only carrying tourist visas.

Federal authorities arrested Cabactulan and Duenas at the KOJC compound in Van Nuys, California, while Estopare was nabbed in Virginia.

The complaint alleged that the three obtained visas for church members in the guise of performing in musical events, but once they arrived in the US, they were forced to surrender their passports and work long hours as “miracle workers” to solicit funds for Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF).

The said ‘miracle workers’ would tell donors that their money would support impoverished children in the Philippines but according to the complaint, the money raised was used to finance the operations of KOJC and the lavish lifestyle of its leaders.

“KOJC and CJF advertise that the solicited money will be used to aid Filipino children; however, little to no money solicited appears to benefit impoverished or in-need children,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Anne Wetzel.

Also, the complaint accused the defendants of arranging sham marriages and other illegal mechanisms for members to stay in the US and continue soliciting donations, and then threatened them of facing consequences should they fail to meet quota.

“KOJC workers often slept in cars overnight, parked at truck stops. For those KOJC workers who proved to be good at soliciting money, KOJC administrators, including CABACTULAN, DUENAS, and ESTOPARE, would force them into sham marriages so they could stay in the United States and continue soliciting,” Wetzel said.

According to the FBI, the church’s bank records show that KOJC accounts received approximately $20 million in cash deposits from 2014 through mid-2019.

Following the arrest on Wednesday morning, the FBI executed search warrants at KOJC and CJF offices in Van Nuys, Glendale, and three other locations in Los Angeles, as well as in two locations linked to KOJC in Hawaii.

According to the Federal Law, the charge of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

READ: Quiboloy follower Felina Salinas likely to face 5 years in jail over cash smuggling

FBI says Ohio shooting suspect explored “violent ideologies”

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

DAYTON, OHIO, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 4, 2019). GUNMAN (CONNOR BETTS) CHASING THE PEOPLE IS BROUGHT DOWN BY GUNFIRE FROM POLICE OFFICERS. COURTESY: REUTERS

The suspected gunman in the Dayton, Ohio, weekend shooting that killed nine people was exploring violent ideologies but it was unclear whether that influenced his actions, an FBI agent said on Tuesday (August 6).

“We have uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” FBI agent Todd Wickerham told reporters.

He said authorities were working to determine whether the attacker was influenced by a particular ideology and whether he was helped by anyone.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday proposed a “red flag” law that would take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others, responding to pressure for him to “do something” after the mass shooting in Dayton. (REUTERS)

(Production: Mana Rabiee)

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