More than 13 years after being indicted for allegedly firebombing a horse corral at a federal facility near Susanville, a long-sought fugitive in a three-state ecoterrorism case has been arrested and returned to the United States, officials announced Friday.
Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, fled the country more than 12 years ago but was apprehended as he traveled through Central America and Cuba on his way to a planned trip to Russia, authorities said.
Cuban authorities, working with American officials, detained Dibee in Havana before he boarded the Russia-bound plane. He was subsequently returned to Portland, Ore., where he appeared in federal court Friday and pleaded not guilty to charges he faces there.
He was ordered held in custody as a flight risk and danger to the community, court records say.
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Dibee faces arson and other charges in Oregon, Washington state and California in connection with an alleged ecoterror and vandalism scheme that officials say included 40 crimes between 1995 and 2001 that caused more than $45 million in damages.
Dibee and his alleged accomplices were known as “The Family” and were linked to activities by the Environmental Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, groups the FBI considers fronts for extremist domestic terror activities, authorities say.
Dibee, an American citizen originally from Seattle, is believed to have been one of a dozen suspects who set fires targeting government buildings over the years. Several became fugitives, but only one — Josephine Sunshine Overaker, who is believed to be 43-46 years old — remains at large.
Dibee was charged along with three others in a 2006 indictment by a federal grand jury in Sacramento in connection with an Oct. 15, 2001, arson at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corrals near Susanville.
Dibee was charged with conspiracy to commit arson, arson of a government building, and use of a destructive device, counts that could net him up to 30 years in prison.
Sacramento Bee stories from 2006 indicate that the blaze burned a barn and 250 bales of hay, causing $85,000 in damages.