Fugitive on run over $75m fraud caught by gardai

Man found peddling drugs in Dublin's city centre after he and accomplice fleeced mortgage lenders. THREE years after going on the run from a $75m (€58m) mortgage fraud in the US, Scott Cavell will be delivered into the waiting arms of the FBI this week.

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The son of a former US soldier is to be deported back to his home county of Sacramento after gardai caught up with him living under a false name peddling drugs in Dublin.

In the Dublin District Court last Monday, Cavell, 29, got a five-year suspended sentence, on condition that he co-operates with his deportation back to America. How he came to feature on the Garda's radar in the first place is a crime caper in itself. Cavell and his accomplice, Christopher J Warren, were two young bucks in their mid-20s who managed a finance company in Sacramento, California.

According to US court documents, they defrauded investors and mortgage companies of millions since 2006, involving 500 homes and condominiums across several US states. At the time, a US attorney said "the brazenness and the cynical manipulation of people who were investing hard-earned money. . . is beyond the pale".

On February 2, 2009, months after the fraud was uncovered, Warren and Cavell vanished. Warren chartered a private plane for $156,000, and flew to the Lebanon via a stopover in Shannon Airport. During the flight, he opened a suitcase to show flight crew up to $5m worth of gold, although the authorities never found it. He was arrested a week later, trying to get back into the US at the Canadian border, where he was caught with a fake passport, $70,000 cash stuffed in his boots and €6,000 worth of platinum.

Cavell -- described in court documents as Warren's "right-hand man" -- performed a more successful vanishing act. Whether he hitched a lift on Warren's private jet isn't clear, but either way he turned up in Ireland on a false US passport, where for the next few years he lived in rented flats selling gold coins and precious metals over the internet to reputable traders and dealers.

Cavell managed to live below the radar, having somehow swapped his false US passport for a bogus Irish one under the name of Marcus Dwyer. He opened two bank accounts with Allied Irish Bank on Dame Street, through which flowed tens of thousands of euro, and lived in a comfortable apartment on Castle Street in Dublin city centre.

According to investigating gardai, Cavell's gold ran out and he turned to drug dealing to get by. He started growing cannabis in his Castle Street apartment. Word of it reached drug squad detectives, who turned up there in February last year with a search warrant.

Cavell -- or Dwyer as he called himself -- wasn't home. But in a classic piece of bad timing, he showed up just as the detectives were in mid-search. Cavell confessed but he still passed himself off as Marcus Dwyer, producing his bogus Irish passport.

Even though he was a fugitive from an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol, Cavell was processed through the courts for a drugs offence under his false name of Dwyer.

The authorities also confiscated his false passport as a condition of bail, so that he couldn't take flight.

The first the gardai knew of Marcus Dwyer's alter ego came in October, on the eve of his trial for drugs charges. Garda Paul Kelly, curious about his American accent, sent his fingerprints and photograph to Interpol. Interpol wired back that this man was a wanted fugitive, Scott Cavell.

At his trial gardai objected to bail citing the Interpol dispatch, but the judge allowed it. Cavell went on the run again, prompting the court to issue a bench warrant for his arrest.

By now the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations had joined the hunt for Cavell, who continued his drug peddling even though he was already before the courts.

He was arrested at the Electric Picnic in September last year -- in possession of 28 ecstasy tablets -- where he again used the name Marcus Dwyer. He was released without charge, gardai intending to summons him later.

Gardai followed the money trail. His bank cards had been seized during one of his two arrests.

Detectives traced back his last transactions conducted in his bogus name of Dwyer. He continued to use the cards up to October 2011, although there was little left in his bank accounts.

Detectives eventually tracked him to a modest rented house on Tyrconnell Road in March this year.There they found Cavell lying low, taking calls on his phone from Sacramento and frequently ordering in Chinese takeaways.

They staked him out before following him to Ben Dunne's gym on Jervis Street one morning in March, rudely interrupting his workout. Back at his rented house, they found a tablet press and enough ecstasy to make €20,000 worth of tablets, and €3,500 in cash. He later told gardai that he bought the press to make steroids. At his trial last week, Detective Garda Philip Ryan told the court that Cavell had fallen in with the "wrong crowd". He was "encouraged" to come to Ireland on a false passport and then steered into the drugs operation when he got here.

Cavell was ordered to remain in jail until the gardai organised his deportation.

Cavell's accomplice, Warren, was jailed for 14 years last month for the mortgage fraud. Cavell is likely to face a similar sentence but, according to his lawyer, he still wants to go back to the US as quickly as possible. He has had enough of being a fugitive.

UN-linked accused in drug smuggling case still a fugitive

Five years after he was accused of smuggling hundreds of kilos of cocaine into B.C., a fugitive linked to the United Nations gang remains at large.

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Khamla Wong, also known as Khamla Siharaj, was charged on Aug. 31, 2012 after a lengthy investigation by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

And while two of his co-accused in the case were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in B.C. Supreme Court last week, Wong has eluded capture, Staff Sgt. Lindsey Houghton confirmed Tuesday.

Houghton said Wong, 45, is believed to be in Asia or Europe. “His nexus to gangs and gang violence is a very real one. It’s only a matter of time before we catch up with him, or his enemies do,” Houghton said.

Wong was living in Abbotsford before he disappeared. At one time he owned a restaurant that was frequented by UN gang members in the Fraser Valley city. Wong faces one count of conspiracy to traffic 121 kilograms of cocaine, another count of conspiracy to import 97 kilograms of cocaine and one count of possession of a firearm.

Houghton said he was born Khamla Siharaj in Laos, before immigrating to Canada and legally changing his name to Wong. “Wong became a Canadian citizen, but as a result of this outstanding Canada-wide arrest warrant and the Interpol Blue Notice, Passport Canada revoked his Canadian passport,” Houghton said. “It is unknown what documentation he travels under.”

His wife travels under an Australian passport and has used the names Michelle Chan, Sabrina Chan and Sabrina Wong, Houghton said.

“Wong speaks many Asian languages, along with English. He has already changed his name at least once, as has his wife, and this, along with his language skills, is likely making his ability to move around Asia — where we believe he has spent much of his time — and escape the police much easier,” Houghton said.

“Wong is extremely savvy to police techniques and counter-surveillance but we believe that he has also made many enemies in the criminal world. We believe that he is, wherever he is, mostly likely armed and is considered very dangerous.” He has at least two small children born in Canada, Houghton added.

Last week, Jeremy Albert Stark was sentenced to 13 years and Christopher Lloyd Mehan to 10 years for their roles in the international drug ring. Justice Ian Bruce Josephson said both men were cocaine importers “at the wholesale level” with connections to buyers like Wong.

The B.C. men were snared in the investigation that was started by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles in 2008.

The DEA used a confidential informant to distribute encrypted BlackBerry devices to members of the drug gang in both Canada and the U.S., including Stark, Mehan and Wong. The BlackBerrys used a server that was inside a DEA office, allowing agents to read all the messages about drug deliveries and money drop-offs.

U.S. agents sent information to CFSEU, which began its own investigation.

The coordinated effort led to 218 kilograms of cocaine being seized in two large shipments smuggled through the Pacific border crossing inside commercial trucks in December 2008.

U.S. court records state that Wong complained in an email to Stark after the second shipment was intercepted by police.

Alexandra Tolstoy interview: ‘Sergei must have planned his escape. He didn’t tell me so I didn’t have to lie about it’

She trekked 5,000 miles on camelback, married an Uzbek horseman while struck by the ‘romantic madness of the steppes’, then later a Russian billionaire – who fled the UK without warning in July after Putin came looking for him. Alexandra Tolstoy’s life is worthy of her cousin’s epic novels – but for her it’s all too real

‘I don’t feel my life is in danger, but I am sure we are being watched and that our phones are bugged’ … Alexandra Tolstoy . Photograph: Guardian/Felix Clay

‘I don’t feel my life is in danger, but I am sure we are being watched and that our phones are bugged’ … Alexandra Tolstoy. Photograph: Guardian/Felix Clay

hen Alexandra Tolstoy’s Russian billionaire partner failed to turn up to her father’s surprise 80th birthday party, she put it down to his habitual – and infuriating – inability to be on time for anything. It was only when his bodyguard called to tell her that Sergei Pugachev, the man once known as Vladimir Putin’s banker, had “gone away” that she realised he was not just late, he was not coming at all. Tolstoy went back to her family party.

“I wasn’t too worried. His bodyguard said he wouldn’t be able to make the party, that he was all right but he’d had to go away and he couldn’t say more,” Tolstoy says. “I only discovered he had disappeared when I read it in the newspapers.”

Being “all right” is not a given for Russian businessmen who, like Pugachev, have fallen out with the Kremlin – they can sometimes be made to disappear for good.

Faced with a freeze on his business assets, a court order to hand over his Russian and French passports and the threat of extradition to Moscow, Pugachev, 52, whom the Russian Federation accuses of misappropriating £655m in public funds, did what police vernacular would call “a runner”. After bidding Tolstoy and their three young children goodbye that morning, saying he was off to “a meeting in the City”, Pugachev vanished.

Tolstoy says she did not hear from him for 10 days and had no idea where he was until, three weeks after his daylight flit, Pugachev surfaced in Nice on the French Riviera, where he owns a château.

“Afterwards, I realised he must have planned it all. I think he was really frightened by the tracking device [that was found on the family car]. Sergei’s a survivor and knows what he’s doing, but he doesn’t always tell me. It’s so I’m protected and don’t have to lie about not knowing,” she says.

Since then, Pugachev, unable to return to Britain where he faces arrest, has lived in the south of France. Tolstoy, 41, reluctant to uproot the children from the family home, remains in London.

Disappearing lovers, death threats, international intrigue, an unlikely and doomed marriage to a dashing but penniless Tatar horseman encountered on the Russian steppes … the life of Alexandra – officially Countess Tolstoy – reads like a chapter from one of her distant cousin Leo Tolstoy’s novels. Anna Karenina, I suggest. She laughs as if the idea has never occurred to her, but admits it is one of her favourite Tolstoy books.

The eldest of Anglo-Russian historian and writer Nikolai Tolstoy’s four children, Alexandra, who grew up in Oxfordshire, describes herself as an adventurous, rebellious and often naughty child who liked to take risks and, aged 11, announced that she wanted to go to boarding school. With good A-level grades and a guaranteed place at Edinburgh University to study philosophy, her father decided she should spend her gap year in Moscow, rediscovering the family’s heritage. Tolstoy loved the country so much that she wanted to live there.

“I fell in love with the place and decided to study Russian. That visit changed the whole course of my life.”

After graduating, and a brief and uninspiring stint on the equity desk of a City bank, Tolstoy set off on an adventure that most of us might not consider as an option: with three girlfriends and a Royal Geographical Society grant, she travelled the Silk Road across central Asia to China by horse and camel.

She wrote a book about the 5,000-mile trek, and embarked on a further trip to Mongolia and eastern Siberia, before signing a contract with the BBC to make the TV series Horse People With Alexandra Tolstoy, about cultures dependent on horses.

During her Silk Road expedition, Tolstoy had met Shamil Galimzyanov, an Uzbek showjumper employed as a guide, who liked to ride bare-chested and would become her husband in 2003. At the time, Tolstoy told the Evening Standard they were “made for each other” and that her family “instantly adored him”. “After two days my parents said ‘you have to marry him’,” she said.

Interpol’s website page on Sergei Pugachev, a Russian banker once close to Vladimir Putin.  Photograph: AP

Interpol’s website page on Sergei Pugachev, a Russian banker once close to Vladimir Putin. Photograph: AP

Reports of their society wedding mention a Mongolian yurt set up in a meadow near her parents’ Oxfordshire home, a balalaika band flown in from Paris and Galimzyanov carrying off his bride on a snow-white horse.

It was “rash and unthought out … the romantic madness of the steppes”, declares Tolstoy 12 years on. “At no stage did anyone say: how are you actually going to earn money for a home and family? I was the breadwinner and he would get angry because the roles were reversed, then I would become resentful because I was working all the time. And we just weren’t intellectual or emotional equals. But I come from a family where nobody divorced. I felt I had made my life and I had to stick with it. Then I met Sergei.” Tolstoy pauses. It was her Count Vronsky moment.

“I was so vulnerable, it made it seem even more dramatic and in my mind more right. He was such a contrast. Here was someone I could talk to, someone who understood me.”

Tolstoy had first met Pugachev, then a Russian senator and trusted friend of Putin who had separated from his wife, when asked to give him English lessons while she was living in Moscow with Galimzyanov. A year later, they met again at an awards ceremony attended by the Russian president. Within months, Tolstoy had left her husband and was pregnant by Pugachev.

So began a life of private jets, flowers, palace hotels and grand romantic gestures. With Pugachev boasting a $15bn (£9.6bn) business empire, affording a home and family was no longer an issue. Not that this is the driving force behind their relationship, she says: “He was very passionate, very romantic and made extravagant gestures. He did sweep me off my feet. Shortly after we met I had to go filming with the BBC in Siberia near the Arctic. Sergei had given me a satellite phone so we could talk and I was complaining about being cold and that all we had to eat was horsemeat and potatoes. Suddenly, two of Sergei’s guys turn up with biscuits, caviar and avocado, as well as a new jacket, trousers, chocolates, everything. Another time I was filming in Spain and he sent a plane to pick me up at the tiny local airport at the end and flew me to meet him in Paris.

“I remember saying to my cousin that I wished he didn’t have all this stuff – the private planes and money. I didn’t want to think I was wooed by that, or that I would be so shallow. But I never had such an emotional connection with anyone else.”

Three babies followed in quick succession. The children – Alexei, known as Aliosha, aged six; Ivan, five, and Maria, three – speak Russian, English and French, and their names are provisionally down for Eton and Harrow. “Sergei isn’t convinced about boarding schools. It’s a very English thing,” she says.

She would like more children, but is not hopeful: “The day before he disappeared I found out I was pregnant. I’d already had a miscarriage, and Sergei said this time I must try really hard not to be stressed. Then he disappeared, which was pretty stressful, and I had another miscarriage.”

Today, Pugachev is embroiled in a battle with the same Russian state of which he was once a privileged member. He once owned two major shipyards, the world’s biggest mine and large tranches of real estate in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Mezhprombank, which he co-founded in the 1990s. Pugachev, who left Russia in 2011, claims that after relations between him and Putin cooled, the Kremlin tried to seize or destroy his business empire. The Russians counter-accuse Pugachev of siphoning off vast sums of taxpayers’ money given to Mezhprombank by the Russian central bank at the height of the 2008 economic crisis. Since then, the Russian authorities froze his assets, had him put on Interpol’s wanted list and obtained a court order in Britain forcing him to hand over his passports and stay put while the investigation continues. The court gave him a £10,000 a week spending limit.

This has prompted his international lawyers to prepare a case for the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the British courts acted against international law in seizing his documents. A spokesperson for Pugachev said: “The British are doing Moscow’s dirty work, and we cannot understand why.” His lawyers have also submitted a $12bn (£7.2bn) compensation claim against Russia. The case is likely to rumble on for years. In the meantime, Tolstoy exists in a gilded limbo, unsure of what happens next.

“There have been death threats [against Sergei] for some time, and I know there’s an order out to get rid of him by the end of the year,” she says, adding that she became “really frightened” when what turned out to be a GPS tracking device was found attached to the minivan she uses to ferry the children around.

“It was made to look like a bomb and was clearly meant to intimidate me,” she says. The Russian state investigation agency, the DIA, denies this, and a British judge concluded that the “devices” were only meant to keep tabs on a man who it was feared – justifiably, as it turned out – would flee the country.

“I don’t feel my life is in danger,” Tolstoy says, “but I am sure we are being watched and that our phones are bugged. That’s why we never discuss arrangements over the telephone. It’s really not a nice feeling.”

After Pugachev vanished, the fear turned to anger when a team of private investigators, who Tolstoy says were employed by the Russian government, turned up at her home with a search warrant issued by a British court.

“They came here knowing I was alone in the house with the children and wouldn’t even let me call my mother,” she says. “I was screaming at them that whatever they wanted was nothing to do with me.”

The concept of being “alone” in Tolstoy’s airy mansion is relative. She has two nannies, who work alternate fortnights, and a housekeeper, but no security staff. They are all in France with Pugachev. She is not your average single mum, but insists she is a hands-on parent: “I read a lot to them. At the moment I’m reading the Little Grey Rabbit books, which they love, and I do the school runs and bath times too,” she says.

“The children are young and accept the situation, but you never know how much it’s affecting them. Last week I was putting Aliosha to bed, and we were saying prayers, and I suggested he thank god that we are safe. And he said: ‘But we are not safe. Those bad people came right into our house’. I feel really resentful about that. The children and I have absolutely nothing to do with Sergei’s business.”

Like Tolstoy herself, the family home is a curious mix of grandeur and ordinariness. The front door opens on to a large hallway in which the laundry is drying on a metal airer. The open-plan living room, with one wall almost entirely covered with six large black-and-white photographic portraits of the children, is strangely pristine for a family home, even one with a housekeeper. Perhaps the children will make a mess when they get home, but in their absence there are no toys scattered across the floor, and none of the sundry detritus that usually marks the presence of youngsters.

With Pugachev’s income curtailed by the freezing order, Tolstoy says she is reluctant to ask him for money, and is living off a private income bequeathed by her late step-grandfather, Patrick O’Brian, author of the historical naval novel Master and Commander, later made into an Oscar-winning film. “Sergei is supporting us, but without the money from my grandfather it would be really difficult,” she says.

There is no suggestion she is on her uppers, and she does not claim to be. Tolstoy is still smarting after giving an interview to a journalist friend who wrote in the Mail on Sunday that she claimed she was unable to live on £10,000 a week, making her sound like a modern-day Marie Antoinette.

“I never said it wasn’t enough to live on,” she says, becoming agitated. “The journalist asked me about the court decision to freeze Sergei’s assets and give him £10,000 a week for living expenses. It’s not me getting the money. What I said was hugely misinterpreted. I was not complaining or asking anyone to feel sorry for me, and I really resent the suggestion I was. I have an amazingly privileged life and I’m extremely grateful for it.”

But behind the bluff of confidence, Tolstoy appears anxious and a little lost. She apologises several times during our interview, saying she is “feeling terrible” and has had trouble sleeping. She picks and worries at her gold lacquered fingernails throughout. She can afford physical comforts, but not the luxury to complain about the uncertainty, worry and fear of her situation. “Alexandra is putting on a brave face,” one of Pugachev’s assistants tells me later.

Above all, Tolstoy seems restless, and anxious to be doing something, or going somewhere: “Sergei is quite controlling. He has this idea of what women should do and not do. He respects my opinion and is proud of me, but he would prefer I stayed at home and enjoyed a social life,” she says, suggesting it is not her idea of fun.

“A lot of Russian oligarchs would have married a different kind of person, “ she adds. “My life now is very different to how it was before. What I miss is the freedom of travelling in the desert, which is liberating and calming. I get quite anxious, and having that kind of simple life is incredibly relaxing.

“I’ve lived in a tent and was extremely happy. I have children now and I wouldn’t want to go back to that for their sake, but I can envisage going back to it if I had to. Maybe one day, when the children are grown up. I’ve definitely not had a calm life, but I’m certainly not complaining.”

New Information in Fugitive Case

Donald Eugene Webb Murdered Pennsylvania Police Chief

Shown are some of the newly released images of Donald Eugene Webb, taken in the late 1970s.

Shown are some of the newly released images of Donald Eugene Webb, taken in the late 1970s.

The FBI has released newly acquired photographs of longtime fugitive Donald Eugene Webb—wanted for the 1980 murder of a Pennsylvania police chief—in the hopes of enlisting the public’s assistance in capturing the career criminal who has been on the run for nearly four decades.

Webb, wanted for killing Police Chief Gregory Adams of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania during a routine traffic stop, would now be 85 years old. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the fugitive’s whereabouts—or the location of his remains.

“These photographs present Donald Webb in a completely new way,” said Special Agent Thomas MacDonald, who is investigating the case from the FBI’s Boston Division. “The face of this investigation for decades was grainy black and white photos,” he said. The new color photographs, taken a year prior to the murder, show Webb from multiple angles in much greater detail. “If he has been living under an alias all these years,” MacDonald said, “these photographs might generate the tip that helps us resolve the case.”

One of the longest tenured fugitives to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, Webb was a career criminal who specialized in jewel theft and operated in the Providence, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts areas. It is believed he was in Pennsylvania planning a robbery at the time of the murder.

The white Mercury Cougar getaway vehicle Webb was driving at the time of the murder was located several weeks later in Rhode Island, and blood evidence linked to Webb was recovered from the vehicle, leading investigators to believe that he was wounded during the confrontation.

“There have been few leads on the Webb case for a long time,” MacDonald said. But the FBI’s Boston Division started an active cold case investigation in 2015. As part of that investigation, the new photos were obtained. “We’ve been doing a lot of interviews and knocking on a lot of doors,” MacDonald explained.

“If he has been living under an alias all these years, these photographs might generate the tip that helps us resolve the case.”

Thomas MacDonald, special agent, FBI Boston

At the time of the murder, Webb lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts with his wife and stepson. He was known to associate with members of the Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island and with criminals in southern Florida. He was also known to frequent motels in eastern Pennsylvania under the name Stanley Portas. Portas was the deceased husband of Webb’s wife.

MacDonald emphasized that the $100,000 reward could be paid to someone who helps locate Webb’s remains if he is deceased. “We want to know one way or the other,” he said. “There may be someone out there who had knowledge of his death and is now willing to come forward.” It is also possible that Webb is still alive, living under an alias, and that individuals will recognize him from the newly published photographs.

“It might be that someone out there doesn’t know that the person they got to know in the 1990s and early 2000s was Donald Webb, and that could help us resolve this case,” MacDonald said.

During the investigation, MacDonald has talked to numerous retired agents and police detectives who have worked on the Webb case over the years, and he traveled to Saxonburg and met with police officers there.

“The case still haunts these people,” he said, noting that Adams was 31 years old at the time of his death and left behind a wife and two young children. “Resolving this case would be a great victory for law enforcement and for the family.”

Update: The remains of long-time fugitive Donald Eugene Webb have been recovered. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts positively identified the remains that were recovered by the Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section, with the assistance of the FBI and Pennsylvania State Police, on July 13, 2017.