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FBI increases reward for suspected eco-terrorists

  • Story Highlights
  • Four suspects in arson of Vail Ski Resort believed to have fled overseas
  • Four suspects part of cell linked to Earth Liberation Front
  • $26 million arson is nation's most expensive case of eco-terrorism, FBI says
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From Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI on Wednesday quintupled rewards for four suspects in the $26 million arson of a Colorado ski resort 10 years ago.

From left, Josephine Overaker, Justin Solondz, Joseph Dibee and Rebecca Rubin are accused of arson.

The four suspects, who are thought to be the last members of the eco-terror group known as "The Family," are believed to have fled overseas.

"The Family" was thought to be affiliated with ELF, the Earth Liberation Front. Together, the four are suspected in "at least 25 domestic terrorism criminal actions totaling over $48 million in damages, including the largest eco-related arson in history, a $26 million arson at the Vail Ski Resort," the FBI said in a statement Wednesday.

"These individuals are terrorists; regardless of their political or social message, their actions were criminal and violated federal laws," Arthur M. Cummings II, executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch, said in the FBI statement.

The statement said the agency is offering "up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest" of the four.

ELF made no secret of its responsibility for the Vail fire, and on October 19,1998, issued a statement saying: "Vail Inc. is already the largest ski operation in North America and now wants to expand even further. The 12 miles of roads and 885 acres of clearcuts will ruin the last best lynx habitat in the state. Putting profits ahead of Colorado's wildlife will not be tolerated."

In a news conference Wednesday, the FBI said it has only general information on where the fugitives may be:

• Justin Solondz, a U.S. citizen, is believed to be traveling in Russia and previously had been in China and India.

• Rebecca Rubin, a Canadian citizen, is believed to be in hiding in Canada.

• Joseph Dibee, a U.S. citizen, is believed to have fled to Mexico and is now thought to be in Syria.

• Josephine Overaker, a Canadian citizen, is believed to be in Spain.

The FBI has led a 10-year multiple-agency criminal investigation dubbed "Operation Backfire" to combat violent elements of the environmental and animal rights groups, which authorities have declared "domestic terrorists."

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