April 15, 2008 – Lawfuel- Colorado must fight back by leveraging resources and expertise as never before, Eid urges state’s top law enforcement leaders
Crimes linked to Colorado are increasingly “globalized,” requiring complex and expensive investigations involving foreign nations on an unprecedented scale, U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said at a statewide law enforcement conference today.
Speaking at the annual Law Enforcement Coordinating Conference in Vail, Eid cited the recent indictment by a federal grand jury in Denver of a Greek national, Georgios Xydeas, on charges of selling misbranded prescriptions to customers using Internet pharmacies to funnel illicit drugs from China to Colorado.
The Xydeas’ indictment alleges that consumers ordering Ambien, Xanax and other popular medications over the Internet actually received a mislabeled anti-psychotic drug – produced in China and shipped from Greece to U.S. consumers – with potentially devastating medical consequences. The ongoing criminal investigation has already required investigators and prosecutors from Colorado to travel overseas and work extensively with their international counterparts.
“Just in the past year, federal prosecutors in Colorado have found themselves working in China, Russia, and other distant places in order to bring justice to Coloradans,” Eid said.
“This internationalization of crime, fueled by the Internet, means we must fight back at every level of government. It means leveraging our resources and expertise at the state, local, tribal and federal level as never before.”
The challenge is so pervasive that more than one-half of all criminal cases prosecuted by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office can be linked to foreign nations or citizens, Eid said. Such crimes include:
*Other drug-smuggling and trafficking cases involving illicit and prescription drugs. “In one recent case, involving Colorado Springs-based College Pharmacy, our office recently charged the pharmacy, its representatives, its owner, and its source of supply of illegal and unapproved human growth hormone (hGH) allegedly smuggled from China,” Eid said. “The contraband hGH was then distributed throughout the United States to doctors and patients.”
*Criminal alien cases, in which the defendant is not a citizen of the U.S.; enters the United States illegally; commits an aggravated felony and is convicted; is deported; and re-enters the United States. The presence of such criminal aliens in the United States is itself a federal crime. “Our office prioritizes these cases statewide because state and local law enforcement rightly expects us to take criminal aliens off the street before they commit more crimes,” Eid said.
*Identity theft offenses, where a person’s identity is stolen by a third party for use in fraudulent documents, such as fake U.S. Passports and Resident Alien “Green” Cards.
*Human smuggling and trafficking crimes.
*Cybercrimes, such as the theft of credit card numbers and PIN codes, computer-hacking, and criminal “spamming” of e-mail in violation of the federal CANSPAM Act. “Recent Colorado examples include Russian- and Romanian-based credit card traffickers, as well as a Venezuelan hacking cases targeting U.S. Department of Defense computers,” Eid said. “The Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office also last November successfully prosecuted Min Kim, a criminal computer spammer who used servers based in the Netherlands, securing one of the first-ever CANSPAM Act convictions.”
*Violations of federal export control laws, such as supplying U.S. “dual use” technologies with potential military applications to restricted foreign nations such as Iran. Eid announced that he has recently created Colorado’s first inter-agency task force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. State Department’s export control enforcement agency, the Defense Criminal Investigative Agency, and others in order to increase law enforcement coordination in this area.
*Wildlife-smuggling and other environmental crimes. Recent Colorado cases have included the smuggling of endangered sea turtle shells and skins to Colorado from China and Mexico, as well as leopards from South Africa.
*Anti-terrorism investigations originating from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the Denver Field Office of the FBI.
*International extraditions, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office uses Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrants and other tools to support multi-national cases. “In one such recent prosecution, our office supported the apprehension and deportation from South Africa to Colorado of the so-called ‘Australian Bonnie and Clyde,’” Eid said. “The suspects, Australian nationals Craig Prichart and Nova Gutherie, committed a string of robberies in the Four Corners area of Southwestern Colorado during the 1990s, later resurfaced in a nightclub in Pretoria, South Africa, and were identified using photos posted on the Internet.”
The Internet contributes to the increasing globalization of crime, sometimes transforming previously local crimes into international investigations, Eid said. For instance, Eid noted that the looting of Native American artifacts from Indian reservations and federal lands.
“According to the National Parks Service, these artifacts are increasingly marketed over the Internet to collectors in Europe and Asia,” Eid said.
In his remarks, Eid also focused on the rapid increase of Internet-enabled child pornography. The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of Internet-enabled child pornography, violent sexual assaults against children, captured in digital photos and on video, often originate overseas.
“International child pornography rings are often big global businesses which use violent images as currency instead of cash,” Eid said. “One case last month handled by federal prosecutors in Florida led to a worldwide investigation that has ultimately charged 22 defendants in England, Canada and Germany, and which includes more than 400,000 pictures and videos of child victims. So far, 20 children seen in these images have been rescued by law enforcement.”
“We also see international visitors who travel to Colorado for the purposes of ‘sexual tourism,’” Eid added, noting last month’s indictment of Lawrence Eugene Couturier of Surry, British Columbia, on charges of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and attempting to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The indictment charges that on February 29th, the defendant traveled from Canada to Fremont County, Colorado, to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under eighteen (18) years of age after using an Internet chat room.
In response to the increasingly globalization of law enforcement in Colorado and elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Justice is taking unprecedented steps to strength international cooperation, Eid said. He cited increased cooperation between the United States and Mexico to combat methamphetamine as a case in point.
“After increasing each year from 2001 through 2006, meth production in Mexico fell significantly last year,” Eid said. “This promising development coincides with unprecedented efforts by both nations to restrict commercial Pseudoephedrine imports into Mexico, where it is processed in ‘superlabs’ into meth and smuggled into the United States.”
Eid said multi-agency task forces are also essential to combating these trends. “To keep pace with the complexity and cost of globalized crime, all of us, regardless of jurisdiction, must seek ways to share information, technology and expertise to keep Coloradans safe,” Eid said. “We are only as secure as the weakest link among us.”
Spokesman, Public Affairs Officer,
U.S. Department of Justice
US Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado