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Ken Hoss
01-11-2014, 12:03 AM
I've searched and searched and can't seem to find anything on this issue. (Tons of associated topics, but not this.) I would normally ask my technical advisor, but he seems to have gone missing. Any way, my current WIP is the fourth in a series with my main character, Kelli Storm, an NYPD Detective.

Kelli is currently working on a Joint Task Force with the DEA, FBI and ICE. At this point, they are trying to track a cargo container that was used to smuggle in sex slaves from the former Soviet States. In the interim, a club owned by a Russian mobster was bombed and her witness, a Russian national, is in the hospital and under Federal protection as a material witness. Here is the twist. An attache from the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. comes to visit and says that the witness will be returning to Russia as soon as he is well enough to travel.

Now, for my question. Can they do that? If so, what recourse would the Feds have?

Below is an earlier question to my technical advisor, who has yet to reply. Note, I have been working with the man for over 4 years now and he has never failed to come through. He is in all three books in the acknowledgements. (Instructor Joe)

Bonus Question: My MC and the team have tracked down a cargo container at a New Jersey terminal and found three bodies inside, all young girls. Forensics pulled two partial prints and ran through AFIS, but no hits. Would they send them to Interpol since the bad guys are from Russia? Kind of want to get Kelli involved with them, if that would work. Also, Kelli is trying to track down the owner/shipper of the container. I'm thinking that she has trouble doing this, running into shell company after shell company. What I have to date is, she's run the first company, based in Estonia, and found out that it's a shell. Just wondering how deep these things go. Could they have 10, 20, fake companies covering for each other? A shell of a shell of a shell?


I appreciate any and all reponses.

robjvargas
01-11-2014, 12:55 AM
I am *so* not a lawyer.

But no, unless that witness has diplomatic immunity, the consulate representative cannot simply walk in and take the witness out. As long as there's a proper material witness warrant.

BUT: Everything I found was based on the foreign national being arrested or detained as a suspect. Like this procedure document (http://www.chicagopolice.org/2013MayDirectives/data/a7a57b42-12aaf735-c8012-aafd-e5831233ea764087.html) from the Chicago, IL Police Department.

I did find this article (http://congressionalresearch.com/RS22259/document.php?study=Arrest+and+Detention+of+Materia l+Witnesses+A+Sketch) that says the Material Witness authority has been used on foreign nationals:

The case law and statistical information suggest that the federal statute is used with surprising regularity and most often in the prosecution of immigration offenses involving material witnesses who are foreign nationals. Critics, however, contend that since September 11, 2001, seventy individuals, mostly Muslims, have been arrested and detained in abuse of the statute’s authority.

Not sure about the company tracking. TV shows generally have forensic accountants (which I'm sure the FBI has) locate these chains of shell companies in a day or two. I doubt that it's truly that quick if the shells exist in other countries, especially tax havens.

ironmikezero
01-11-2014, 01:33 AM
In theory, any foreign national taken into custody triggers a notification requirement; the appropriate consulate/embassy is supposed to be so advised. In practice, this doesn't always happen in a timely fashion.

Very few foreign personnel assigned to embassies/consulates actually enjoy diplomatic immunity - most staff do not.

ICE can and does communicate with INTERPOL on these human trafficking cases - so you don't really have a problem there.

The FBI does have very good investigative accountants; and of course, your task force can always tap the resources of FinCEN. Their forensic accounting investigators and intel analysts are awesome.

http://www.fincen.gov/

Ken Hoss
01-11-2014, 01:41 AM
Thanks for the response, robjvargas. Yeah, I found all kinds of case law, but this is a unique situation. While the guy is a criminal, of sorts, he is not under arrest. He was one of the victims in the club bombing and witnessed the people who "may" have planted the bomb. It's an ongoing investigation into the Russian Mafia in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY. The JTF is also looking at the Consulate General in NY as the possible head of a smuggling ring, i.e. drugs and young women for the sex trade. Added to that, there is a link to the Gambino Family.

Like I said in my post, I have been relying on this guy for that past 4 years to keep me straight on procedure and protocol. Heard from him last Thursday when he sent a quick reply and said he would get back to me on Saturday night. Nothing since. I waited until Monday evening to hit him again, and have e-mailed 4 more times since. He works for the U.N. and travels a lot, just hope nothing happened.

Thanks again.

Ken Hoss
01-11-2014, 01:47 AM
In theory, any foreign national taken into custody triggers a notification requirement; the appropriate consulate/embassy is supposed to be so advised. In practice, this doesn't always happen in a timely fashion.

Very few foreign personnel assigned to embassies/consulates actually enjoy diplomatic immunity - most staff do not.

ICE can and does communicate with INTERPOL on these human trafficking cases - so you don't really have a problem there.

The FBI does have very good investigative accountants; and of course, your task force can always tap the resources of FinCEN. Their forensic accounting investigators and intel analysts are awesome.

http://www.fincen.gov/

Thanks, ironmikezero. Actually, the guy is not in custody, per se. He was injured in the bombing and can possibly identify the men who planted the bomb. (See previous response.)

Didn't even consider ICE for this, guess I need to develope their role a little more, or at least one character on the team.

Thanks for the link to FinCEN, that is going to be a big help. Wonder if I can get them to respond to a query.

Thanks again.

jclarkdawe
01-11-2014, 03:54 AM
As far as holding onto a foreign national as a material witness, it comes down to who has the biggest set of balls and wants to push harder. Ultimately, the law favors the US holding onto her, but its more a question of whether it's worth it to the US and how much do the Russians want to fight it.

Okay, on container ports, if you're talking New York, you can use either Howland Hook, Port Jersey, Port Newark-Elizabeth, or Red Hook. Without knowing the port of origin for your shipment, I don't know which would be used. Container ships operate on a schedule, for example Rotterdam to NYC to Rotterdam to NYC. Several companies operate container ships, with the biggest players being Maersk and ACL (off the top of my head).

Let's start with a legitimate container. A company in Frankfurt, Germany contacts a shipping company and arranges for a container from its factory in Frankfort to be delivered to a warehouse in Nashville, TN, US. The shipping company takes a container in its yard, places it on a trailer, and delivers it to the factory. The company loads and seals the trailer.

The shipping company then picks up the container, and brings it to a port, where it is removed from the trailer and stacked waiting for a ship. When a ship becomes available, it is loaded onto the ship, still locked and sealed. In the US, it is off-loaded from the ship, stacked, and waits to leave the port. To make life interesting for you, it is then loaded on a train, routed to Nashville, where it is unloaded from the train, and put on another trailer. It is then delivered to the warehouse.

The container is identified throughout this process by the number of the container. This number consists of the container company's name, and a unique number. The bill of lading, which describes the cargo, is marked with the container's number. During this entire process, the container will probably never be opened, and will arrive with the original seals. Customs deals with what is contained in the paperwork.

Maersk, probably the largest owner of containers, has over a hundred thousand of the suckers. In theory, the computer for Maersk can print out the location of each and every container the company owns. Reality is that when Penn Central went bankrupt, the bankruptcy trustee couldn't find over 3,000 boxcars.

Okay, simple way to use a container illegally is to take a legitimate container shipment and hijack it. You offer the truck driver a big chunk of change to take the container from the factory in Frankfurt and stop on the way at your criminal operation. There you off-load the container, put in your illegal cargo, and put up a fake wall of the original freight on the end of the container. Weak point here is the driver, but other then that, untraceable.

When the container arrives in NYC, a driver shows up with the right paperwork and asks for the container. No one will think anything of it, because there's lots of whoops in this business. Truck driver takes the container, bad guys unload it, and truck driver dumps the container at some container terminal. Eventually, someone at the container terminal will find the container, and send it on its way to Nashville. When opened, the company finds a few boxes from the original shipment. Again, the weak point is the driver.

If someone was on the ball at either end, the truck numbers were recorded. Usually doesn't happen.

Virtually untraceable. In theory, US drivers are now security cleared to get into ports, but once the container clears the seaport, no one really checks.

Shell companies are a complication that no one needs. And you wouldn't want to know the number of stolen shipments and shipments of stolen goods that move through our transportation system.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Ken Hoss
01-11-2014, 06:14 AM
Jim, thank you for the very detailed response. Are you in the industry?

So, in the story, the team has tracked several of the suspected containers to the Maher terminal in Elizabeth, NJ. Out of the entire load, there are only three remaining at the terminal. The ship was out of Bremerhaven and on the Russian Maritime register, flying under a Russian flag. Not really going into detail as to how the bad guys got the container to and on the ship, just suffice to say they have friends in high places.

Actually, I have some knowledge as to what happens to these containers once they reach the U.S. After 9/11 I drove a big rig for a while, just to pay the bills until the economy picked back up and I could get back to being an IT Analyst. It was definitely not the job for me, but I did it and I got to see a lot of the country I may not have seen otherwise.

The shell companies angle helps to hide the head of the organization, with the added benefit of being able to launder dirty money through apparently legal businesses.

Thanks again, much appreciated.

jclarkdawe
01-11-2014, 07:04 AM
I've been in the industry, both behind the wheel and in management. Did you work the ports at a driver? And the TSA has increased the requirements for getting into ports as a truck driver.

Don't make the container owned by a shell company. Use a shell company for the shipment. Have a shell company doing the shipment, and let the shipment go according to the normal paperwork. Fake destination and origin are nice touches that will slow the investigation.

Shell companies can be traced, but it's hard, and sooner or later, you run into dead ends. Basically you can go into a state's corporate offices (under the secretary of state in each state) and register a company. There's no check to make sure that the company is actually at the address listed or the people exist. You can layer as many shell companies as you want to go through the effort of doing, although there is a cost involved in each company.

By the way, fingerprints inside a container are going to be very, very many. Everybody that's been inside the container is going to leave prints, that are only going to disappear slowly. And the worker's gloves are going to mess them up a lot. But there will be lots of prints.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Ken Hoss
01-11-2014, 07:38 AM
Thanks again, Jim.

Yes, I am using the shell companies as the shipper, not the container owner. These particular companies would be even harder to trace as many of them are in the former Soviet Union. (Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, etc.) I'm even using an actual criminal from the Ukraine wanted by Interpol for human trafficking.

Funny you should mention the fingerprint issue. Before I was an IT Analyst, I was on the job for 2 years, NYPD. In college I majored in Criminal Justice and minored in Computer Science. One of my favorite classes was finger printing. BTW, they did find hundreds of prints in the container, all too smudged for any ID, except for two. No hits in AFIS though.