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Claude Nolan
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Charles Parish
Apr 182013
 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(CORINTH, Miss.) — Investigators trying to determine who sent ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and other officials quickly traced the messages and signature of the letter to Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator who had written to officials in the past and consistently signed his letters “I am KC and I approve this message,” according to an FBI affidavit.

Curtis, 45, was arrested at his home in Corinth, Miss., just a day after a letter laced with the poison arrived at the office of Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. A second letter was sent to President Obama and a third letter was mailed to Sadie Holland, a justice of the peace in Lee County, Miss.

Curtis was formally charged on Thursday with sending mail that contained a threat to kill or harm the president and with sending mail containing a threat to injure the president.

He was arraigned in federal court in Oxford, Miss., where he arrived in court wearing shackles and a Johnny Cash T-shirt.

Court affidavits claimed that investigators quickly matched the verbiage used in the ricin tainted letters to Curtis’ online posting and previous letters to government officials.

Investigators particularly focused in on the signature, “I am KC and I approve this message,” and his mention of “Missing Pieces.”

According to the affidavit, the letter sent to Wicker and Obama read:

No one wanted to listen to me before.
There are still ‘Missing Pieces’
Maybe I have your attention now
Even if that means someone must die.
This must stop.
To see a wrong and not expose it,
Is to become a silent partner to its continuance
I am KC and I approve this message

The FBI asked Wicker’s office to see if they had any prior correspondences with constituents who had the initials “KC,” which revealed multiple letters previously sent by Curtis to Wicker’s office, according to the affidavit. All of the letters ended with a variation of the same signature, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Curtis also frequently wrote about an alleged black market for the illegal sale of human body parts, which he believed the government was covering up, the affidavit states. He wrote about the allegations in an unpublished novel called Missing Pieces, which he discussed on his Facebook page and in the letters to government officials, according to the FBI.

Curtis had previously written an e-mail to Congressman Alan Nunnelle of Mississippi in which he also mentioned “Missing Pieces.”

The ricin letters and Curtis’ Facebook page contain identical refrains: “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

Wicker acknowledged Thursday that in addition to the letters Curtis had sent him, the two had met once. Wicker hired Curtis, an Elvis impersonator and entertainer, to perform at a party Wicker threw, he told reporters in Washington.

Curtis made a living impersonating music stars and putting on shows. He dressed up as Elvis, Hank Williams, Jr., and Prince, according to his Facebook profile and YouTube videos.

“I have worked tirelessly to perfect an art form & unique show for all ages with …authentic costumes songs, gimmicks & props,” he wrote on his Facebook page, noting that he had developed a Tribute to the Stars show featuring Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and others.

“Complete with authentic Costumes, lights, lasers, Strobes & plenty of audience interaction!” he wrote.

Curtis believed in cover-ups, according to his ex-wife who reported him to police in 2007 for being “extremely delusional, anti-government, and (for feeling) the government was spying on him with drones,” according to the affidavit.

He wrote on his Facebook profile that if the federal government were “using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, (they) do NOT have permission.”

After two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, Curtis addressed the crime on his Facebook page.

“This world is not what it used to be and the hopes of all are not what they ‘USED’ to be. We have let God down. We removed prayer from schools in 62….we have staged wars simply for profits in oil and drugs….we have lied our way from the capitol to the pulpit. We the people should be ashamed. I weep for the future of our children. God bless.”

Curtis’s family did not return messages left seeking comment. His brother said in a written statement Wednesday that the family had “no reason to believe Kevin would be involved,” but that they knew “very little” about the case.

“Until my family gets some answers and we have a chance to talk to my brother, I can’t comment further,” Jack Curtis wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Apr 102013
 

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Federal investigators visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s campaign headquarters in Louisville on Wednesday, and campaign staffers handed over information pertinent to the investigation of a leaked tape that revealed the campaign’s strategy against potential challenger Ashley Judd, a source connected to the McConnell campaign tells ABC News.

The visit is a sign that the leak is being considered seriously by the FBI, which was alerted to the incident Tuesday. McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that liberal forces in Kentucky bugged his campaign headquarters and leaked a tape of a strategy session to Mother Jones magazine.

In a radio interview, campaign manager Jesse Benton told Mike Huckabee that FBI agents were at headquarters for about an hour.

“They tell us that they’re running down some leads,” Benton said. “For various reasons they need to be very cautious about what they share with me and then what I’m allowed to share on the public side. I can’t comment any further, but this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign is committed to making sure “this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” according to Benton, who was among the aides in the room for the session that was captured on tape.

The tape revealed the McConnell campaign’s plan to attack Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” and to focus on her religious beliefs. Judd last month announced that she would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination, after several months of publicly flirting with a run.

In the aftermath of the tape’s release, McConnell has attacked the political left for what he called “Nixonian tactics” of bugging his campaign headquarters, though it’s still not clear who made the tape and who distributed it. The campaign is already fundraising off of the controversy.

Also on Wednesday, Benton claimed Mother Jones mistakenly transcribed the speaker at the beginning of the presentation. He said the line, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through” should instead read, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, in their free time, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through.”

“Jesse” may refer to Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, but the word “LA” probably refers to legislative aides or legislative assistants, people who work in McConnell’s senate office.

The distinction is important, because the line Mother Jones reported raised the question of whether McConnell’s aides violated campaign law.

ABC News reporters listened to the recording several times but could not make a definitive judgment on what was said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 272013
 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo.) — The most recent addition to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list has been taken into custody, according to authorities.

A press release from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department states that Denver FBI officials returned the fugitive, Edwin Ernesto Rivera-Gracias, to Colorado after he had fled to El Salvador.

Rivera-Gracias will face charges in the August 2011 murder of Richard Limon. Limon’s body was found stabbed multiple times with duct tape covering his mouth and nose. Investigators believe Limon was already dead when his body was thrown from the side of a mountain road. A broken-off blade from a steak knife was found lodged in his chest.

According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Russel Humphrey, Rivera-Gracias may have been upset because his girlfriend had told him that Limon molested her and sexually assaulted her mother.

Three other suspects were arrested in connection with the murder in August 2011: Raul Nunez-Soto, Tina Louise Moya and a 17-year-old juvenile female. Nunez-Soto and Moya each plead guilty, receiving sentences of 48 years in prison and 36 years in prison, respectively.

The FBI later launched an international manhunt to find Rivera-Gracias.  A federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011 for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 142013
 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A man with connections to a violent international gang and wanted for the brutal murder of a Denver man will be the latest to join the ranks of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list, ABC News has learned.

The fugitive is 28-year-old Edwin Ernesto Rivera Gracias, identified by three law enforcement sources who would not speak on the record ahead of an official announcement planned for Thursday morning.  Officials fear Rivera Gracias, who says he is from El Salvador, may have fled the United States.

Rivera Gracias is wanted for first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 63-year-old Denver resident Richard Limon.  On Aug. 17, 2011, a cyclist discovered Limon’s half-naked body on Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County, Colo.  His mouth and nose were covered in duct tape, and investigators believe Limon was already dead when his body was thrown from the side of a mountain road, tumbling down a rocky slope through bushes and weeds.  A broken-off blade from a steak knife was found lodged in his chest.

According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Russell Humphrey, Rivera Gracias “expressed his desire to kill” Limon to an acquaintance about a month before Limon died.

Rivera Gracias was angry because his girlfriend told him that Limon had molested her as a child and had twice sexually assaulted her mother, according to an unverified claim in the affidavit.

With the help of another man, the affidavit said, Rivera Gracias allegedly attacked Limon as he was lying on a couch, wrapping duct tape around his nose and mouth as the victim called for help.

“After wrapping the duct tape around [Limon]‘s head, [Rivera Gracias] began beating him about his face and head with his right fist.  Between 10 and 15 minutes elapsed without [Limon] dying,” the affidavit stated.

Rivera Gracias, the affidavit added, left and soon returned armed with a six-inch-long knife that he allegedly used to “rapidly” stab Limon five or six times.

“The final stab wound was to [Limon's] heart and resulted in the knife blade breaking off within his body,” Agent Humphrey wrote in the affidavit.

After Limon stopped breathing, Rivera Gracias and another man allegedly wrapped Limon in a blanket and put his body in the back of a pickup truck for the drive to Lookout Mountain, the affidavit said.

Three acquaintances of both Limon and Rivera Gracias were arrested on murder charges shortly after Limon’s body was found, but Rivera Gracias has been on the run ever since.  Investigators believe he was using a cellphone that was traced to the Los Angeles area about two weeks after Limon was killed.

The FBI launched an international manhunt to find Rivera Gracias.  A federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011 for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Rivera Gracias claims to be a member of Mara Salvatrucha, a notorious street gang also known as MS-13 that began in Los Angeles and has roots in Central America.  Officials said he has “MS-13″ tattooed across his back and “503″ — the country telephone code for El Salvador — on the back of his left arm.

MS-13 now operates in at least 42 states and counts between 6,000 and 10,000 members nationwide, according to an FBI threat assessment.

Thursday is the 63rd anniversary of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list.

Nearly 500 people — all but eight of them men — have been on the list since it began in 1950, according to the FBI.  The first fugitive to make the list was Thomas James Holden, accused of murdering his wife and her two brothers in Chicago.  He was captured in Beaverton, Ore., in 1951.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 082013
 

Courtesy Levinson family(NEW YORK) — Thousands of former FBI agents across the country on Friday are expected to observe a moment of silence in honor of their missing colleague, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who six years ago on Saturday was kidnapped in Iran.

Levinson, who spent more than two decades in the Bureau before retiring in 1998, was traveling as a private businessman when he was taken captive by unknown assailants on Iran’s Kish island March 9, 2007.

Since then, his family has mounted a worldwide campaign demanding that Iran set him free, pushing U.S. officials in a meeting in the Oval Office last March to negotiate for him.  

On Friday, the family is scheduled to meet with the FBI and State Department about the case, but as one family member told ABC News, “There is no news, unfortunately.”

After his sudden disappearance, the first public sign of life from Levinson, who has diabetes, came in a hostage video posted on the Internet a little over a year ago.

“Please help me get home,” says Levinson in the video.  “Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something.  Please help me.”

In January, the family released a series of pictures of Levinson they received from his captors in 2011.  This time the 64-year-old appeared haggard in an orange mock-prison uniform with a long gray beard and chains over his shoulders.  There were five different photos, each staged with a different disturbing message by his captors.  In each he holds a sign, one of which reads “Help me.”

People involved in the case said the pictures, which also reference Guantanamo, were designed to suggest he is being held by al Qaeda, although the same people are certain Levinson is in Iran.

Authorities either do not know or have not publicly identified Levinson’s suspected captors, but the U.S. government has repeatedly asked the Iranian government’s help in finding him.

However, despite those pleas and a $1 million reward offered by the FBI for information leading to Levinson’s discovery, it appears he will mark his sixth year away from his family and in captivity.  Levinson turns 65 years old on Sunday.

“Bob’s former colleagues have not forgotten him and we call on the international community to redouble its efforts to gain his release,” said Konrad Motyka, President of the FBI Agents Association.  “Let’s make this the last solemn anniversary that needs to be marked by focusing world attention on Levinson’s continued unjustified imprisonment and gaining his release.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio