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‘Environmental extremist’ group leader Joseph Dibee pleads guilty to arson

An environmentalist saboteur pleaded guilty to his role in a pair of arson attacks on animal-processing facilities years ago — as a part of a domestic terrorism ring known as “the Family,” federal prosecutors said.

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee admitted to working with at least 15 others as members of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front to destroy the Cavel West Meat Packing Plant in Oregon in 1997, as well as a government-run wild horse facility in California in 2001, according to the Department of Justice.

Dibee, who was indicted more than 15 years ago for his role in the attacks, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to commit arson and arson charges.

“The conspirators, together known as ‘the Family,’ were ultimately linked to more than 40 criminal acts between 1995 and 2001 and caused more than $45 million in damages,” the DOJ said in a press release.

Federal authorities said Dibee, 53, who spent years on the lam following his 2006 indictment, is an “environmental extremist, arsonist and former fugitive.”

In 2018, Dibee was arrested in Cuba before he boarded a flight for Russia on an Interpol Red Notice, according to the DOJ and reports.

In 1997, Joseph Dibee and members of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front used “incendiary devices” to destroy the Cavel West Meat Packing Plant.
Federal Bureau of Investigations

In the late 1990s, Dibee and his co-conspirators used “incendiary devices” to destroy an Oregon commercial slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility, according to the news release. In 2001, Dibee and others “attempted to destroy” a government-owned wild horse corral in California, according to the DOJ.

Leading up to and during the attacks, Dibee and fellow environmental extremists “held meetings to plan arsons of targeted sites, conducted research and surveillance of the sites and discussed their planned actions using code words and code names” according to the feds.

“The conspirators designed and constructed destructive devices which functioned as incendiary bombs to ignite fires and destroy targeted sites,” the news release read.

During what the extremists called “direct actions,” they wore dark clothing and wore masks and gloves to disguise their appearances. Some “acted as lookouts” while others were tasked with “placing, igniting or attempting to ignite the improvised incendiary devices,” prosecutors said.

Wanted poster.
Jospeh Dibee spent years on the lam following his 2006 indictment.
Federal Bureau of Investigations

In July 1997, Dibee and his crew destroyed a commercial slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility in Redmond, Oregon. Four years later, Dibee and others in October 2001 tried to destroy the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Corrals — a facility used to remove wild horses from public lands.

Following a years-long domestic terrorism investigation led by the FBI, a federal grand jury in Oregon indicted Dibee and 11 co-conspirators in 2006. Dibee had fled the US in December 2005, a month before his indictment.

One of Dibee’s co-conspirators, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, remains on the lam after fleeing to Europe in 2001, according to the DOJ and reports.

Dibee faces 87 months in federal prison at his sentencing on July 27 in Oregon.

As part of the plea agreement reached Thursday, Dibee agreed to pay unspecified restitution to victims of his crimes, according to the DOJ.

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