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Ecoterrorism suspect surrenders at Canadian border

November 29, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • This undated photograph provided by the FBI shows fugitive Rebecca Rubin.
This undated photograph provided by the FBI shows fugitive Rebecca Rubin. (FBI / Associated Press )

A Canadian woman who has been an international fugitive from charges relating to a string of fires set by environmental radicals surrendered to U.S. authorities on Thursday, officials said.

After a decade on the run, Rebecca Jeanette Rubin, 39, turned herself in at the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash., the FBI announced. She faces federal arson and conspiracy charges in Oregon, Colorado and California. After an appearance in federal district court in Seattle, she will be sent to face trial in Oregon, officials said.

Rubin is accused of being part of a cell known as the Family, which was based in Eugene, Ore., and was affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. From 1996 to 2001, the group was responsible for 20 arsons in five Western states, officials said.

The group disbanded in 2001, but Operation Backfire, the federal task force that investigated the fires, found an informant and broke the case in 2005. The leader, William C. Rodgers, ran a bookstore in Prescott, Ariz., and killed himself after he was arrested.

According to investigators, the more than a dozen members of the Family took oaths of secrecy and commitment to one another. They used firebombs and were known for the coordinated attacks on targets that included a ski resort in Vail, Colo., an SUV dealership in Oregon and federal wild horse corrals in Eastern Oregon and Northern California. Estimates of the total damage ranged from $23 million to $40 million.

Federal officials said they consider the case the largest example of terrorism on behalf of environmental goals in the nation’s history.

In Oregon, Rubin is accused of participating in the Nov. 30, 1997, arson at the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Facility in Harney County near Burns, and the Dec. 22, 1998,  attempted arson at the offices of U.S. Forest Industries Inc. in Medford.

A Colorado federal indictment charges Rubin with eight counts of arson in the Oct. 19, 1998, fires that destroyed Two Elk Lodge and other buildings at the Vail ski area in Eagle County, Colo.

An indictment in the Eastern District of California charges Rubin with conspiracy, arson and using a destructive device in the Oct. 15, 2001, fire at the federal Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corrals near Susanville.

Each count of arson and attempted arson carries a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison, and a maximum of 20 years, officials said. Use of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison. Conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of five years. Each count in the three indictments also carries a potential fine of up to $250,000.

Rubin is the 11th person to face trial in the case. In August 2007, 10 other defendants received prison terms ranging from 37 months to more than six years after pleading guilty in Oregon.

Two other defendants, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and Josephine Sunshine Overaker, remain at large.

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