1 of 2 last fugitives from 1990s Eugene-based eco-terror cell captured in Cuba
EUGENE, Ore. - One of the remaining 2 suspects wanted in connection with a string of arsons committed by a Eugene-based eco-terrorism group has been captured.
Federal prosecutors said Friday that 50-year-old Joseph Mahmoud Dibee of Seattle, Washington, was captured in Cuba as he attempted to travel to Russia from Central America.
He was brought back to the U.S. on Thursday. On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to federal arson and conspiracy charges in Portland, Oregon.
Dibee is a U.S. citizen, known by the nickname "Seattle" after his hometown in Washington, prosecutors say.
He is accused of being a member of The Family, a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation front accused of setting fire to the Forest Service ranger station in Oakridge and other crimes across the west in the 1990s.
“More than two decades ago, a loosely affiliated group of environmental extremists set out to express their views using force, violence, sabotage, mass destruction, intimidation, and coercion,” said Billy Williams, U.S. Attorney for Oregon. “Thankfully no innocent lives were taken by these senseless acts. Today we recognize the FBI’s unwavering pursuit of justice in returning longstanding fugitive Joseph Dibee. Dibee will now, as many of his co-conspirators have before, face the consequences of his actions. Using violent means to express one’s views will never be tolerated nor forgotten. We will bring every last person responsible for these crimes to justice.”
Investigators say the group also ignited the 1998 fire that destroyed facilities at the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado and targeted a research facility at the University of Washington.
Authorities say the group did $45 million in damage in 20 arsons across the West between 1996 and 2001, when the group disbanded.
An informant helped the FBI crack the case in 2005, leading to the arrest of the group's alleged leader, who killed himself in jail.
In 2006, a federal grand jury in Eugene indicted Dibee and his alleged co-conspirators as part of Operation BACKFIRE, an FBI domestic terrorism investigation.
At the time, people in Oakridge said they had wondered if the crime would ever be solved.
Ten people pleaded guilty.
But three remained at large, including Dibee; Rebecca Rubin, who turned herself in back in 2012; and Josephine Sunshine Overaker, who remains at large.