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Retired FBI agent becomes longest held American hostage in history after more than six years in Iran
Robert Levison, 65, disappeared from the Iranian isle of Kish in 2007
He was privately investigating cigarette smuggling after leaving FBI in 1998
He’s been missing for 2,455 days – one more than freed Terry Anderson
There have been claims Iran’s government are holding him, despite denials
Daily Mail / UK by Matt Blake November 26, 2013
A retired FBI agent has become the longest-held American hostage in history, more than six years after he was kidnapped in Iran.
Robert Levinson, 65, has now been held for exactly 2,455 days – one day more than US journalist Terry Anderson who was released by his Iran-backed Hezbollah captors in 1991, according to the FBI.
Levinson, wholeft the bureau in 1998, was working as a private investigator looking into cigarette smuggling on the Iranian island of Kish – a hotbed for organised crime – when he vanished in 2007.
The last his family heard of him was in 2011 when they were sent video and photos of him an anonymous email sparking fears the Iranian intelligence services may be behind his abduction.
The photographs were released by the family to renew public interest in the case and come two years after a hostage video and photographs of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson raised the possibility that the missing American was being held by terrorists.
Levinson, a Private Investigator, disappeared in 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish.
The Iranian government has repeatedly denied knowing anything about his disappearance, and the disturbing video and photos that Levinson’s family received in late 2010 and early 2011 seemed to give credence to the idea.
The extraordinary photos — showing Levinson’s hair wild and gray, his beard long and unkempt — are being seen for the first time publicly after the family provided copies to the AP. The video has been previously released.
In response to Iran’s repeated denials, and amid secret conversations with Iran’s government, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement in March 2011 that Levinson was being held somewhere in South Asia.
The implication was that Levinson might be in the hands of terrorist group or criminal organization somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The statement was a goodwill gesture to Iran, one that the U.S. hoped would prod Tehran to help bring him home.
But nothing happened.
Two years later, with the investigation stalled, the consensus now among some U.S. officials involved in the case is that despite years of denials, Iran’s intelligence service was almost certainly behind the 54-second video and five photographs of Levinson that were emailed anonymously to his family.
The level of expertise used to send those items was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly.
While everything dealing with Iran is murky, their conclusion is based on the U.S. government’s best intelligence analysis.
The photos, for example, portray Levinson in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The family received them via email in April 2011. In each photo, he held a sign bearing a different message.
‘I am here in Guantanamo,’ one said. ‘Do you know where it is?’
Another read: ‘This is the result of 30 years serving for USA.’
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has personally and repeatedly criticized the U.S. over its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
U.S. operatives in Afghanistan managed to trace the cellphone used to send the photographs, officials said. But the owner had nothing to do with the photos, and the trail went cold.
It was that way, too, with the hostage video the family received. It was sent from a cyber cafe in Pakistan in November 2010.
The video depicted a haggard Levinson, who said he was being held by a ‘group.’ In the background, Pashtun wedding music can be heard.
The Pashtun people live primarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan, just across Iran’s eastern border.
Yet the sender left no clues to his identity and never used that email address again.
Whoever was behind the photos and video was no amateur, U.S. authorities concluded.
They made no mistakes, leading investigators to conclude it had to be a professional intelligence service like Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Levinson’s wife, Christine, provided the photos to The Associated Press because she felt her husband’s disappearance was not getting the attention it deserves from the government.
‘There isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this,’ she said. ‘It’s been much too long.’
Though U.S. diplomats and the FBI have tried behind the scenes to find Levinson, of Coral Springs, Florida, and bring him home, both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have said little about his case and have applied little public pressure on Iran for more information about Levinson’s whereabouts.
Christine Levinson has watched more public pressure result in Iran’s release of a trio of hikers, a journalist named Roxana Saberi and a team of British sailors captured by the Iranian Navy. Everyone has come home except her husband.
US blames Iranian government for photos and video release
Washington’s quiet diplomacy, meanwhile, has yielded scant results beyond the Iranian president’s promise to help find Levinson.
‘We assumed there would be some kind of follow-up and we didn’t get any,’ Christine Levinson said.
‘After those pictures came, we received nothing.’
In one meeting between the two countries, the Iranians told the U.S. that they were looking for Levinson and were conducting raids in Baluchistan, a mountainous region that includes parts of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
But the U.S. ultimately concluded that the Iranians made up the story. There were no raids, and officials determined that the episode was a ruse by Iranian counterintelligence to learn how U.S. intelligence agencies work.
An expert on Russian organized crime, Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998 and became a private investigator. He was investigating cigarette smuggling in early 2007, and his family has said that took him to the Iranian island of Kish, where he was last seen.
Kish is a popular resort area and a hotbed of smuggling and organized crime. It is also a free trade zone, meaning U.S. citizens do not need visas to travel there.
The Williamson Daily News by Rachel Dove-Baldwin August 22, 2012
A West Virginia licensed Private Investigator and 2012 candidate for sheriff in May’s primary election appeared in Mingo Magistrate Court Tuesday afternoon, escorted there by West Virginia State Police Captain D.M. Nelson, where he was then served with an arrest warrant by Williamson City Police Chief C.D. Rockel that charged him with two felony counts of conspiracy to disclose intercept.
According to information provided by Chief Rockel, the charges against Donald Roy Stevens, who resides at Lenore and operates a private investigator business on Logan Street in Williamson, stemmed from a recent drug arrest that yielded information and proof of an illegal wire-tapping of an official police investigation.
The criminal complaint filed against Stevens reads as follows:
“On or about August 3, 2012, a co-defendant Christina Tidwell along with Christopher Cline, did by way of phone and computer device, record a private and privileged conversation and/or interview stemming from a criminal investigation between Mingo County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Sherrill, Mingo County Special Investigator Eugene Crum and James Cline.
Tidwell knowingly taped the conversation between the victims while at the residence of James Cline on Logan Street, at the direction of Christopher Cline. Cline, knowing that he was not privileged to the communication, then instructed Tidwell to use her computer to tape the conversation and to not hang up. Cline then places the phone down, unbeknown to the victims and without their permission, and furthermore, leaves the room while Tidwell records and captures communication from her residence located at 1181 Vinson Street.
Tidwell later attempted to copy the ill-gotten recordings for disclosure after Don Stevens approached her in an attempt to obtain the recordings content, and furthermore provided Tidwell with electronic device to do so.”
This report was based on information Chief Rockel’s investigation revealed, along with that provided by Special Investigator Eugene Crum.
“To break all of this down, Don Stevens tried to obtain information from an illegal wiretap and was attempting to disclose it to another,” stated Rockel.
Rockel told the Daily News that Stevens had contacted him on Monday, inquiring about the investigation and the alleged warrant against him.
“I told him I could not confirm or deny any information or speak with him about the case at all until he was arrested and read his rights,” said the chief. “I encouraged him to go ahead and come to the office and turn himself in and he refused, saying that if he was going to turn himself in to anyone, it would be to a federal agent.”
“Today, I got a call telling me that WVSP Captain Dave Nelson and another individual were walking up the steps of the Municipal Building with Don Stevens.”
“I was never contacted that they were bringing him in, and I was the one with the original arrest warrant for Stevens,” commented Rockel. “I came over to magistrate court and was informed that the defendant had gone to the WVSP Detachment and had been brought in by Nelson, but he had not been arrested or read his rights.”
WVSP Captain Dave Nelson said that he did escort Stevens to magistrate court after he came to the Williamson office, but stated that the arrest would be conducted by Chief Rockel, that it was not his warrant or his investigation.
Stevens was arraigned before Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler who set bail at $6,000, and was released from custody after bond requirements were met.
The investigation into the alleged wiretapping incident remains open at this time, and is under the direction of Rockel and Special Investigator Crum.
Louisiana Private Investigator Indicted for Offering Bribes in Exchange for Favorable OWI Case Resolution
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) New Orleans (La) Division
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Louisiana (318) 676-3641
February 28, 2013
United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a federal grand jury indicted private investigator Robert Williamson, 64, of Lafayette, on one count of conspiracy, six counts of bribery for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated (OWI), and one count of Social Security fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not reporting income from the bribery scheme. Additionally, Williamson was charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent.
According to the indictment, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 to solicit thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District by promising favorable resolutions to their pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases. The favorable resolution of OWI cases included having the cases placed in “immediate 894 sessions.”
The Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 894 provides a procedure by which a person can initially plead guilty to a crime with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if the person successfully completes certain requirements imposed during a probationary period, including community service.
The indictment states that Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney’s office and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach.
Williamson is also alleged to have obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. The indictment outlines that Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson’s “clients” completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not. Williamson would then take these certificates and provide them to District Attorney’s office staff members who would file them in the court record during the clients’ “immediate 894 session.”
If convicted, Williamson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with up to three years of supervised release for the conspiracy count. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for each count of bribery; five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for the Social Security Fraud count; and five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for the false statements to a federal agent count. A trial will be scheduled at a later date.
“This case should serve as a reminder that private citizen facilitators who participate in corruption conspiracies will be held as accountable as public officials,” said Mike Anderson, Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Division.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and Richard Willis are prosecuting the case.
P.I. Anthony Pellicano’s bid for freedom rejected by judge
Los Angeles Times by Victoria Kim August 13, 2012
Private investigator Anthony Pellicano is shown in Los Angeles in 2003.
Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times
A federal judge on Monday shot down Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano’s bid to be released from custody during an appeal of his 2008 convictions for racketeering and wiretapping.
Judge Dale Fischer, who presided over the private investigator’s six-week trial, said she was not convinced the 68-year-old was no longer a threat to society despite his attorney’s pleas that Pellicano suffered from a serious eye condition and had neither the resources nor the motivations to engage in the intimidation and sleuthing that earned him his notoriety.
The attorney, Steven Gruel, contended some of the most serious counts Pellicano was convicted of were likely to be overturned given recent Supreme Court decisions. The former investigator is serving a 15-year sentence at a federal lockup in Big Spring, Texas.
“Having spent a number of years with Mr. Pellicano … I have a great deal of confidence in his abilities,” Fischer said, denying the request for release without elaborating on her decision. She said she would issue a written ruling later Monday.
The judge heard briefly from former Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was threatened by Pellicano. Busch said she continued to be afraid of the man.
Pellicano’s attorneys had contended in court papers that prosecutors’ contention that the investigator remained a threat was “illustration of the prosecution’s frustration with Mr. Pellicano’s steadfast decision to stand tall [and silent]; all the while unwilling to cooperate.” They wrote that family members were willing to put up surety bonds and that he could remain on electronic monitoring while living with a cousin.
“The court witnessed the same trial we all did,” Assistant U.S. Atty Kevin Lally said after the hearing. “The evidence is overwhelming that he’s a danger and a flight risk.”