DO YOU STOP A DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE TURNED BOMBER?
In this Case, By Quickly Tracking His Electronic Trail Around the Globe
An old-fashioned vendetta
... or a sign of things to come? Both, actually.
It was five
years ago this week that computer/electronics repairman George
Rocha pled guilty to bombing two home improvement stores in North Carolina
(badly burning one woman and injuring 4 others) ... and threatening to
bomb more if he wasn't paid $250,000 on the double.
Turns out, Rocha
was a former employee of the retail chain who was not only short
of cash, but also miffed that he'd been fired for trying to pilfer company
about the case, though, is how Rocha tried to pull off his crime using
global financial networks. And how, with our growing international
presence, we quickly solved the case by following his electronic trail
across multiple continents.
Here's how it
played out: On November 9, several weeks after the bombing,
Rocha ordered the company to wire the quarter-million dollars to an overseas
bank account in Riga, Latvia ... through an intermediary bank in Stockholm,
Sweden. Rocha sneered in his extortion note that the account was registered
as a Panamanian Corporation "not traceable back to me." The
chase was on.
FBI Agents in
Charlotte, North Carolina, quickly reached out to our agents overseas.
… Our man in Panama
City—with the help of longstanding partners in that country—tracked
down records on the Panamanian firm. Turns out, it was a shell corporation.
A dead end.
… The agent in
our new Copenhagen office confirmed that the money passed through Stockholm
on its way to Latvia.
… Our agents in
Tallinn, Estonia, contacted the Latvian bank moments after the money was
sent and found the bank account had been opened through e-mail. They relayed
the e-mail address to our Computer Crimes Squad in Charlotte, which traced
the message back to a home telephone number in the U.S. The number belonged
to George Rocha in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bingo.
… Meanwhile, our
agents in Estonia turned up a U.S. mailing address in the Latvian bank
application. Charlotte agents pursued the lead. They learned that the address
belonged to a local doughnut shop in Winston-Salem and that a man closely
matching Rocha’s description had picked up a package of financial
documents at the store, pretending the package was a misdelivery. We
had our man.
All of these
investigative activities—which took place over three continents—happened
in less than three days. By November 11, Rocha was under arrest
and had confessed to his crimes.
Back to the
future. Five years later, the case continues to resonate ...
not just as a success story for law enforcement, but also as a clear
indication of what it takes to fight crime and terrorism in our emerging