Area of Law:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an intelligence unit focused on national security and law enforcement. The FBI's mission is to protect and defend the United States of America against terrorism and foreign intelligence threats, to enforce criminal law in the country and to provide leadership and justice.
This year has seen a lot of indictments and investigation by the FBI into various crimes leading to personal injury. The two biggest cases this year were the La Tombola Massacre and the ‘Sextortion' case of Jared Abrahams.
Case 1 : The La Tombola Massacre
One of the biggest cases was the arrest of Alexis Candelario Santana who was responsible for the La Tombola massacre that took place on October 17, 2009. Forty two year old Santana was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of eight people and one unborn child and the attempt to murder 19 other people during a mass shooting at a Puerto Rican nightclub. Shockingly, this murder came after Santana's release from prison just one year earlier for murdering 12 people.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman commented saying, "Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and we hope that today's life sentence brings some measure of comfort to them. As this prosecution and today's life sentence shows, we will not waver in our commitment to bringing violent criminals to justice."
Santana rented and renovated a nightclub called La Tombola in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, and hosted a grand opening for it on October 17, 2009. He ensured that the event was heavily attended by various families, most of who merely resided close by and had no connection with the drug trafficking organization he was involved in. Close to midnight, Santana and co-defendant David Oquendo-Rivas drove to La Tombola and opened fire on all the people standing outside the club most of whom were women, children and the elderly. Santana and Rivas then made their way into the club, indiscriminately opening fire on the families standing inside, yelling "No one gets out alive".
The FBI along with the Puerto Rican Police Department, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the US Postal Inspection Service, Instituto de Ciencias Forenses and the Puerto Rican Justice Department heavily investigated the case to convict Santana and Rivas for their extremely violent crime against innocent people.
A federal jury convicted Santana and his co-defendant Rivas on March 8, 2013. Santana's convictions consisted of:
- 28 counts of violent crimes aiding illegal racketeering
- One count of racketeering conspiracy
- Nine counts of using firearms to perform a violent crime
- One count of conspiracy with the intention of distributing controlled substances
- One count of being in possession of firearms as a convicted felon
Santana's prosecutors argued for the death penalty by lethal injection but his experienced local criminal defense lawyer countered these arguments and tried to save Santana's life by showing the jury pictures of prison and life behind bars, saying that life in prison was more than enough punishment.
Co-defendant Rivas was convicted with 28 counts of committing violent crimes that aid racketeering activity and nine counts of using firearms to commit violent crimes.
Case 2 : Extortion and Cyber Crime
Jared James Abrahams, a 19 year old college student from Temecula was accused and arrested after surrendering to FBI special agents at Orange County for extorting young women into sending him compromising pictures and videos of themselves or engaging in short Skype sessions with him, by hacking into their online accounts.
The ‘sextortion' investigation began in March 2013 as many victims' accounts were hacked. Abrahams used pernicious software and tools to prevent himself from being identified and caught. He then captured nude photos and videos of female victims by remotely operating their webcams without their permission. He targeted women he knew personally and women whose Facebook pages were shared by other victims. He would then attach the photos to an email and send them to the victims, blackmailing them by threatening to publish pictures and videos on social media accounts unless the victim sent him nude photos or engaged in a five minute Skype session with him and did whatever he told them to.
FBI Investigations to Find the Hacker
An 18 year old woman initially alerted the FBI when her Facebook profile was hacked and a half-nude profile picture was uploaded without her consent. She then began to receive emails threatening and blackmailing her. The girl recognized the background of the pictures and realized that they had been taken with her laptop's webcam in her house without her knowledge. Abrahams threatened to post her pictures all over the internet if she did not comply with him and even mocked her for using an easy Facebook password.
A federal search warrant for Abraham's residence in June 2013 revealed digital evidence of a hacking software as well as the images and videos of victims. Forensic analysis of the 18 year old victim's computer showed the presence of malware and remote admin tools that were linked to Abrahams domain name ‘cutefuzzypuppy'. This domain name was also linked to hacker forum discussion boards about spreading malware and controlling webcams.
Abrahams had unauthorized access to accounts of victims in not only California but also Maryland, Ireland, Russia, Canada and even Moldova. It was also revealed that one of Abraham's victims was an Irish minor of just 17 years of age. She was also forced into having a 5-minute Skype session with him despite her plea to "have a heart". He responded saying, "I'll tell you this right now. I do not have a heart. However, I do stick to my deals. Also age doesn't mean a thing to me."
On being interviewed by the FBI, Abrahams admitted that he had indeed spread malware to his victim's computers, infecting them, gaining unauthorized control of their webcams and watching the girls in their various states of undress. He also admitted to taking their pictures and then extorting them. Further investigations are still ongoing and the FBI believes that he had many more victims who have not yet been identified and advises people to take precautions against these types of cyber crimes.
These two cases while shocking are merely a drop in the ocean of cases handled by the FBI this year.