Law Enforcement Community Recognizes the 20 Year Anniversary of the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory
KANSAS CITY, MO—The FBI, and other law enforcement officials today recognized the 20-year anniversary of the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (HARCFL). The HARCFL, which officially opened on July 9, 2003, was the fourth of 17 FBI-sponsored digital forensic and training centers in the U.S. devoted entirely to the scientific examination of digital evidence.
Since 2003, the HARCFL has provided timely, objective digital forensic services to law enforcement agencies within its service area—the entire state of Kansas and the western district of Missouri. The HARFCL, a fully accredited laboratory, also earned international accreditation originally from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board and later from the ANSI National Accreditation Board—the world’s largest forensic science accrediting body.
At inception, the HARCFL had 11 full-time agencies with 14 full-time computer forensic examiners. Today, there are 17 participating law enforcement agencies with more than 20 full-time examiners. The increase in full-time examiners and participating agencies goes directly to the evolution and enhancement of technology and demonstrates digital forensics as an invaluable tool in solving the most complex cases.
“Since its inception, the lab has been a leader in digital forensics for Kansas City and across the Midwest. In addition to the petabytes of data the HARCFL has processed over the last ten years, the lab has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers in digital forensic best practices,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Jaffe said. “Throughout the last two decades, the HARCFL has played a pivotal role in the success of countless cases and brought justice to hundreds of victims. This is a testament to the lab, and our hard-working and committed partners that dedicate time and personnel to this resource for our community.”
Throughout the last two decades, the need for the lab has only grown with advances in technology. In terms of data, the HARCFL processed almost 400 terabytes of data in 2022 and more than 420 terabytes of data in 2021. In the past ten years (or since 2013), the lab has processed more than 4 petabytes, or 4,000 total terabytes, of data and performed more than 4,700 examinations of digital evidence for cases.
“The Overland Park Police Department is a proud partner in the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (HARCFL). This valuable resource enables area police departments to remain on the cutting edge of law enforcement investigative practices involving computer/cyber-based criminal activity,” said Overland Park Police Department Chief Frank Donchez. Donchez also serves as the President of the HARCFL’s Local Executive Board.
Current Participating Agencies:
- US Attorney’s Office – Western District of Missouri
- US Attorney’s Office – District of Kansas
- Belton, Missouri Police Department
- Clay County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office
- Gladstone, Missouri Police Department
- Independence, Missouri Police Department
- Kansas City, Missouri Police Department
- Kansas City, Kansas Police Department
- Kansas Bureau of Investigation
- Lawrence, Kansas Police Department
- Lee’s Summit, Missouri Police Department
- Missouri State Highway Patrol
- North Kansas City, Missouri Police Department
- Olathe, Kansas Police Department
- Overland Park, Kansas Police Department
- Platte County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office
Past Participating Agencies:
- Grandview, Missouri Police Department
- Jackson County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office
- Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office
- Shawnee County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office
- Leavenworth County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office
- US Department of Agriculture
In the past decade, the HARCFL has participated in several high-profile and extensive cases. A few highlights of the lab’s efforts, include:
Airport Bombing Plot:
An avionics technician moved forward with a plot to detonate explosives at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The HARCFL aided with the digital evidence and supported the investigation conducted by Wichita FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Kansas Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison in Plot to Explode Car Bomb at Airport
Frazier Glen Miller, Jr.:
The HARCFL supported the investigation of an individual who targeted Jewish people when he took the lives of three non-Jewish people, including a 14-year-old boy outside a Jewish facility on April 13, 2013. The HARCFL aided in processing digital media in the case.
John T. Booker, Jr.:
The HARCFL provided digital forensics expertise to the investigation into a plan to detonate a vehicle bomb on the Fort Riley military base in Manhattan, Kansas.
On February 25, 2016, a shooter, identified as Cedric Ford, drove toward a plant where he had previously been employed and fired shots on his way to and upon arriving at the plant. During the shooting, three people were killed and 14 more were wounded. In the aftermath of the shooting, the HARCFL deployed its Mobile Digital Forensics Lab to the scene and assisted in processing digital evidence in this investigation.
Thomas Hauk – Overland Park accountant sentenced to nine years in federal prison for embezzling funds from a financial services company. For nearly a decade, Hauk engaged in schemes to defraud his clients. The HARCFL processed digital evidence in the investigation.
Attack at Fort Leavenworth:
On September 7, 2017, Clifford Currie walked into Fort Leavenworth military hospital where he worked as a civilian in an administrative capacity and brutally attacked his supervisor, Army Lt. Katie Blanchard. He walked into her office, doused her in gasoline, and set her on fire. He then attempted to attack her with scissors but was stopped by a witness on the scene. Currie was convicted of assault with attempt to commit murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The HARCFL was able to uncover evidence from Currie’s cell phone and computer which greatly assisted in proving premeditation.
Plot to Attack Immigrants:
Three subjects were convicted for their plot to attack an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas. Hoping to inspire other attacks on Muslims, the men planned to bomb the complex, attacking the Somali Muslim population in the town. Four examiners at the HARCFL supported the investigation by performing forensic examinations on the subjects’ computers/phones. Patrick Stein was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Curtis Allen to 25 years, and Gavin Wright received 26 years.
A local police department responded to a reported incident of domestic violence involving a death and a threatened arson. Upon arrival, one of the Department’s officers shot and killed the occupant after he believed the occupant was preparing to use deadly force against other officers. It was thereafter determined that the reported incident was a contrived “swatting” call made by Tyler Barriss. HARCFL examiners were involved in the examination of gaming devices and onsite assistance at several search warrant locations.
Michael English, Sr.:
Ex-Kansas City, Kansas, School Resource Officer, Michael Eugene English, Sr., pleaded guilty in 2020 to rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and sexual exploitation of a minor. HARCFL provided on-site assistance, along with processing of digital evidence in the case.