An environmental extremist pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday for his role in two arson conspiracies targeting animal processing facilities in the Pacific Northwest and California.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, 53-year-old Joseph Mahmoud Dibee “pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson and arson in the District of Oregon,” as well as “conspiracy to commit arson in the Eastern District of California.”
Dibee and at least 15 other affiliates of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front “knowingly conspired with one another to damage or destroy various commercial and government-owned properties” between October 1996 and December 2005, the Justice Department said. The conspirators held meetings to plan attacks, conducted research and surveillance, discussed their plans via code words and code names, and built incendiary bombs to destroy the sites.
“During their self-described ‘direct actions,’ the conspirators dressed in dark clothing and wore masks and gloves to disguise their appearances. Some conspirators acted as lookouts while others were responsible for placing, igniting or attempting to ignite the improvised incendiary devices,” the Justice Department described.
In July 1997, Dibee and his partners used the devices to destroy the Cavel West Meat Packing Plant in Redmond, Oregon. In October 2001, Dibee and others tried to destroy Wild Horse Corrals — a Bureau of Land Management facility near Litchfield, California, that is used to remove wild horses from public lands.
Following a domestic terrorism investigation from the FBI, Dibee and 11 co-conspirators were indicted in the Eastern District of California and Western District of Washington. They were linked to over 40 criminal acts that amounted to $45 million in damages.
Dibee, however, had fled the United States in December 2005. Cuban authorities arrested him in 2018, and the U.S. Embassy in Havana returned him to the United States.
Dibee “has agreed to pay restitution to his victims as determined by the government and ordered by the court.” The government recommends a sentence of 87 months in federal prison.
“One of Dibee’s co-conspirators remains at large,” the Justice Department added. “Josephine Sunshine Overaker, an American citizen who is either 47 or 50 years old, is believed to have fled to Europe in late 2001. Overaker faces 19 felony charges including conspiracy to commit arson and destruction of an energy facility, attempted arson, and arson.”
“No matter the agenda, using violence to advance a social or political cause is a serious crime. Over a series of years, Mr. Dibee and his co-conspirators caused millions of dollars in damage to commercial and government-owned properties,” Scott Erik Asphaug, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, said in a separate statement. “Today, after many years on the run, Mr. Dibee admitted to his role in these schemes and will finally face justice.”
“It has taken more than 20 years for Joseph Dibee to face justice. The FBI and our law enforcement partners never gave up,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon Kieran Ramsey added. “From destroying evidence to fleeing the country, none of Mr. Dibee’s tactics stopped us from making sure he was held accountable for his malicious and destructive actions.”