Home News Stories 2008 November Update - Operation Backfire

Update - Operation Backfire

Operation Backfire
Help Find Four Eco-Terrorists

11/19/08

It has been 10 years since a group known as “The Family” torched a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, causing $26 million in damage and drawing international attention to eco-terrorists—those who break the law in the name of the environment and animal rights.

Since that time, we’ve joined our federal, local, and state law enforcement partners in establishing Operation Backfire to bring these criminals to justice.

Our efforts have been successful, but four individuals under indictment remain at large. At a press conference in Washington today, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced an increase in the reward for the capture of these four fugitives and released the latest information we have about where they might be.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Ward speaks at the press conference. With him is Portland Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel Nielsen.

FBI Deputy Assistant Director Ward speaks at the press conference.
With him is Portland Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel Nielsen.

“These individuals are terrorists. Regardless of their political or social message, their actions were criminal and violated federal laws,” said Michael B. Ward, Deputy Assistant Director of our Counterterrorism Division. “The FBI has remained steadfast in the search for these individuals.”

We are offering a reward of up to $50,000 each for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, Rebecca Rubin, and Justin Solondz, all believed to be living abroad.

We need your help to capture these criminals. Here is what we know:

  • Dibee was indicted in 2006 on charges of arson, conspiracy, and animal enterprise terrorism. He is believed to be living in Syria with family members.
  • Overaker has been on the run since 2001. She was indicted in 2004, with subsequent indictments in 2006, including for her involvement with the 1998 Vail arson. She is believed to have spent time in Germany and may have settled in Spain. She speaks fluent Spanish.
  • Rubin was indicted in 2006 for the Vail arson and other domestic terrorism crimes. A Canadian citizen, she has strong family ties to Canada and may be living there.
  • Solondz was also indicted in 2006 on charges that include arson, conspiracy, and animal enterprise terrorism. He was out of the country when he was indicted and has never returned. Solondz has traveled in Russia, China, and India.

The Family was a terrorist cell of about 20 people who committed crimes in the Pacific Northwest and Western U.S. in the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). By the time it disbanded in 2001 under pressure from our investigations, the group was responsible for at least 25 criminal actions totaling about $48 million in damages. Their crimes included vandalism, property damage, animal releases, and arson.

Because the crimes were acts of domestic terrorism, we took the lead in the investigations, working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement counterparts. In 2004, separate investigations were condensed into Major Case #220, otherwise known as Operation Backfire.

To date, Operation Backfire has had impressive results: more than 40 criminal acts ranging from vandalism to arson have been solved. Seventeen individuals have been indicted, and 15 of them pled guilty and were sentenced in 2007 to jail time ranging from 37 months to 188 months.

You can help. If you have any information on the four fugitives, please contact us in one the following ways:

Resources:
- National press release
- Remarks by Deputy Assistant Director Ward
- 2006 indictments