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Spokane/East. Wash/North Idaho News Releases for Tue. May. 30 - 7:42 am
Wed. 05/24/23
United States Attorney's Office Awarded Several New Prosecutor and Support-Staff Positions, Including Additional Resources to Prosecute Violent Crime in Indian Country
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/24/23 5:47 PM

Spokane, WA: U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref, the chief federal law enforcement officer for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that her office has received authorization and funding from the Department of Justice to hire seven new full-time Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) and two full-time support staff.  The new positions – which will be spread throughout the District’s three offices in Spokane, Yakima, and Richland – will be dedicated to combating terrorism, fraud, drug trafficking, and violent crime, including in Indian Country. The U.S. Department of Justice allocated these positions to U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country from funding approved in last year’s federal budget.   

“We are excited for these additional resources to further our mission to build safer and stronger communities in Eastern Washington,” U.S. Attorney Waldref said. “In the next month, we will have, for the first time ever, full-time AUSAs serving in our Richland branch office. With the addition of the nine new positions announced today, we will be able to further enhance our efforts to protect neighborhoods, families, and communities in the Tri-Cities, Spokane, Yakima, and throughout our beautiful district.”

U.S. Attorney Waldref continued, “With these new positions, we will have forty AUSAs serving in the Eastern District of Washington. This means that our team – which includes attorneys, critical support positions, administrative officers, victim witness advocates, forfeiture personnel, etc. – will grow to approximately ninety civil servants dedicated to DOJ’s mission to seek justice for all.” 

“We’re especially grateful to have additional resources devoted to the important work we do in Indian Country, where we prosecute major crimes arising on the District’s four reservations – the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Spokane Tribe, and the Kalispel Tribe. In fact, one of the AUSA positions is specifically devoted to cases involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. We recognize that indigenous communities suffer violence, especially domestic violence, at much higher rates than many other demographics. We are committed to addressing violent crimes in Indian country and elsewhere and holding perpetrators accountable.” 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington currently has more than thirty AUSAs serving in its Criminal and Civil Divisions in Spokane, Yakima, and Richland. The hiring process for the new positions is already underway and additional listings will be posted in the coming weeks. All of the Office’s openings will be made available at http://www.usajobs.gov.

U.S. Marshals Locate 225 Missing Children in 16 Locations Across the United States During "Operation We Will Find You"
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/24/23 5:45 PM

Spokane, WA – Today the United States Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) announced that the USMS, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), working with several state and local agencies in 16 federal judicial districts, led a 10-week national operation resulting in the recovery or safe location of 225 endangered missing children.

Operation We Will Find You is one of the first nationwide missing children operations focused specifically on geographical areas with high clusters of critically missing children. In total, the operation resulted in the recovery of 169 children and the safe location of 56 more children. During the operation, the USMS referred 28 cases to law enforcement agencies for further investigation of alleged crimes such as drugs and weapons possession, sex trafficking, and failures to register as a sex offender. 

During the operation, 42 children were located outside the city where they went missing, and 10 were found outside of the United States. The youngest child recovered was just 6 months old. While approximately 85 percent of the cases involved endangered runaways, approximately 9 percent involved family abductions. Approximately 40 of the cases involved allegations of reporting sex trafficking. 

Operation We Will Find You also had a direct impact on the Eastern District of Washington.  It total, the operation investigated more than 20 cases arising from our District.  These cases involved allegations of endangered missing children, runaways, and children abducted by non-custodial parents. Of these, 16 children were recovered. Additionally, the USMS arrested a Top 15 Most Wanted couple, who fled to Mexico from the Eastern District of Washington with their children. Each of the recovered children was safely reunited with family in Washington State. 

“I commend law enforcement for locating so many missing children from our district and across the country,” stated U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref.  “I am grateful for the leadership of the U.S. Marshals Service and their dedication to apprehending fugitives and reuniting the most vulnerable among us with their families.  Our communities are safer and stronger as a result of the great service demonstrated through the joint efforts by the U.S. Marshals and their Federal, State, Local, and Tribal partners.”   

United States Marshal Craig Thayer stated, “Reuniting missing children with loved ones and connecting them with appropriate services is a mission in which the United States Marshals Service takes great pride. The specialized skillset that the U.S. Marshals Service provides to our Local, State, and Tribal partners in locating and recovering missing, and oftentimes exploited children, provides these children a second chance for a better childhood by being reunited with their loved ones and connected with other necessary help.” 

A number of Federal, State, Local, and Tribal agencies participated with the USMS in “Operation We Will Find You.” These agencies included the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Confederated Tribes Bands of Yakama Nation Police Department, Ephrata Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Moses Lake Police Department, Othello Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Washington Department of Child Youth and Families, Washington Department of Corrections and Yakima Police Department.

Make the Most of Your Vacation with Budgeting Tips from Inland NW Bank Manager (Photo)
Umpqua Bank - 05/24/23 2:00 PM
Clint Gillum, Market Region Manager for the Inland Northwest, Umpqua Bank
Clint Gillum, Market Region Manager for the Inland Northwest, Umpqua Bank

Create a solid saving and spending plan for your upcoming travels this season

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start to summer: a time for outdoor activities, evenings spent grilling with friends and family and, of course, summer vacations. Whether you’re planning to hit the road or take to the skies, there are some important financial considerations when planning your next trip. As you dream about your next vacation, Umpqua Bank is offering tips to help you make the most of your trip with a solid plan to save and spend this summer season—and avoid falling victim to a vacation scam.

“We all deserve to take time to rest, relax and rejuvenate when the weather gets warmer,” says Clint Gillum, Market Region Manager for the Inland Northwest at Umpqua Bank. “To make the most of your time away, it’s important to create a plan and stick to it so you stay on budget, maximize your trip and return with great memories and no regrets.” 

Here are Clint’s top tips heading into travel season:

  1. Set a budget and plan your trip around it. Take a good look at your finances and set realistic expectations for what you can afford without accruing vacation debt. For example, if you have your heart set on a specific location, consider traveling in the “shoulder season” (outside of peak travel times, typically in spring or early fall). Or, if you’re just looking to get away, research destination options that may help you save. Remember: Your budget should include everything—not just the flight and hotel. Think about costs for meals, transportation at your destination and any excursions you’d like to go on. This will give you a far more realistic expectation of the total cost.
  2. Start a dedicated vacation fund. It’s never too late to start saving for your next vacation—even if it’s already booked. If your travel fund is mixed in with your general savings account, it can be tempting to dip into the fund for other expenses. Consider opening a separate savings account specifically for your vacation fund, which will help you keep an eye on exactly where you’re at financially. You can even set up recurring automatic payments from your checking account to this savings account to contribute regularly. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it adds up!
  3. Use credit sparingly—but to your advantage. It can be easy to fall into the trap of using your credit card to pay for a vacation without paying it off right away, but that sets you up for fees and interest that add up long after your trip is over. You can, however, use a credit card to your advantage. Many credit cards offer perks such as earning rewards for everyday purchases that can be redeemed for airfare, hotels and more. And, a credit card often offers additional (and significant) advantages like trip cancellation coverage or no foreign transaction fees. Just be sure to read the fine print of what a credit card offers!

And, with these tips in mind, it’s also more important than ever to keep an eye out for scammers trying to take advantage of the increased interest in hotel, flight and vacation bookings. 

“Scammers are incredibly opportunistic, and increasingly savvy,” says Jon Stockton, Umpqua Bank’s Director of Fraud. “They are always inventing new ways to make something seem legitimate when it’s not—which means it’s important to stay extra vigilant.” 

Here are some helpful tips to avoid turning your dream trip into a nightmare—and a big headache—due to a vacation scam:

  1. Verify Your Booking Site: Before you book your ticket, do some research. Does the website have a verifiable physical address and phone number? Do they have any Better Business Bureau complaints that might make you pause? When in doubt, booking directly from an airline or hotel is your safest bet—but remember, scammers are getting more and more clever, so double check that the website URL is the verified site of the company you are intending to book from.
  2. Use Reputable Vacation Rental Services: Scammers often fabricate or even steal real rental property information to create fraudulent booking sites in an attempt to steal your information. If possible, call ahead to confirm a rental’s availability and speak to an actual person. And, use reputable vacation rental services that offer fraud protection.
  3. Utilize Your Credit Card: Using a credit card often offers you more peace of mind because they have additional built-in protections against fraud, including things like vacation protection. Be wary of the payment methods your booking site is requesting; if they require you to wire the funds or provide a cashier’s check, it’s likely a scam.
  4. Protect Yourself While You’re Out: Always keep your purse or wallet on you and in your possession when you’re traveling. Even a quick stop at a gas station or rest area is an invitation for an opportunistic scammer to snatch it. And, be sure to take note of any numbers or records you may need in the event you have to report a stolen or lost card to your financial institution. Remember: If you find yourself a victim (or suspected victim) of a scam, be sure to call your financial institution right away to start the process of reporting a stolen card or compromised account.

“Every year, we see scammers taking advantage of people trying to find a good deal,” Stockton says. “Just remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is—whether it’s a flight deal or an ultra-cheap vacation rental. Be extra careful and perform your own due diligence to verify their authenticity.” 

With these tips in mind and a plan in place, you can be confident that you’re maximizing your next big trip—and feeling good that you won’t come back with vacation-related guilt. 

Attached Media Files: Clint Gillum, Market Region Manager for the Inland Northwest, Umpqua Bank

Tue. 05/23/23
Kennewick Man Sentenced to 151 Months for Drug Trafficking in the Tri-Cities:
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/23/23 8:43 PM

Active Gang Member Was in Possession of a Loaded Firearm at the Time of His Arrest

Richland, Washington – On May 22, 2023, United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke sentenced Jose Oliva, 37, to over 12 years in federal prison after his guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Oliva also will serve 5 years of federal supervision after he is released from federal custody. 

According to information disclosed in court documents and during court proceedings, the DEA Tri-Cities Resident Office in collaboration with Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force identified Oliva as a supplier and part of a drug trafficking organization operating in the Tri-Cities, WA area. Oliva was brokering pound-level quantities of methamphetamine for the organization, which were routinely distributed in the Eastern District of Washington.

In July of 2022, Oliva had agreed to meet a confidential source to deliver a pound of methamphetamine, as well as fentanyl-laced pills. After confirming Oliva’s presence at the arranged meeting location, agents moved in to make the arrest.  Oliva immediately fled on foot while in possession of a loaded firearm and distribution quantities of fentanyl-laced pills, which he attempted to discard while in flight from law enforcement. Oliva did not escape and was placed under arrest thereafter.

Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, stated “Removing dangerous narcotics from our community is critical to protecting our families and building stronger and safer neighborhoods. I am grateful for the joint efforts of state, local, and federal law enforcement to identify Mr. Oliva’s drug trafficking activities and to prevent him from further distributing this poison in our community. I also commend Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Van Marter for her leadership of federal drug prosecutions in the Tri-Cities that benefit the public safety of Eastern Washington.” 

“We are grateful for working with all of our partners in this investigation. Our efforts removed an individual from our communities who distributed deadly narcotics and possessed a dangerous firearm,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division. “We will continue in any way we can to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

This case was investigated by the DEA Tri-Cities Resident Office, the Tri-City METRO Drug Task Force, United States Border Patrol, Richland Police Department, Kennewick Police Department, Pasco Police Department, West Richland Police Department, and the Benton County Sherriff’s Office. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Van Marter.