So long, Osama Bin Laden: new entry at No 1 for America's most-wanted list
The terrorist mastermind of 9/11 is replaced by a fugitive teacher on the FBI's list of public enemies
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Thursday 12 April 2012
Eric Toth, aka David Bussone, a fugitive child pornographer, may not have the slaughter of 3,000 people on his criminal CV. But he has just been accorded a singular accolade by US law enforcement authorities as the replacement for Osama bin Laden on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 Most Wanted List.
Days after the head of al-Qa'ida and the organiser of the 9/11 attacks was hunted down and killed in Pakistan last May, the FBI asked its field offices across the country for suggestions for someone to take his place. The choice has now been made. And it's not another terrorist or suspected serial killer, but a former private school teacher in Washington who has been on the run since being arrested in 2008 after pornographic images of young children were found on his camera. The last confirmed trace of Mr Roth was his car, found abandoned at Minneapolis airport.
The agency is now offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to his arrest, a fraction of the $25m (£16m) bounty on bin Laden's head. "There's no comparison to be made between Toth and bin Laden," FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jacqueline Maguire said. "Although Eric Toth has not murdered anyone and he's not an international terrorist, that does not mean he isn't dangerous."
His selection is also a sign of America's changing criminal times. Of the 10 names on the list, six are accused of murder. But, increasingly, the FBI's attention is turning to internet crime.
Mr Toth is believed to have been in at least half a dozen US states since taking flight. "He may be anywhere in the country," another FBI official added. "He could be in a homeless shelter." The Most Wanted list, which took its present form in 1950, is part of American crimefighting lore. Its direct ancestor is the register of "public enemies" issued by the FBI's first Director, J Edgar Hoover, in his war on Depression-era gangsters. But the format can be traced back to the posters of outlaws from the Old West. Indeed, days after 9/11, the then President, George W Bush, was declaring that he wanted Osama "dead or alive".
The device is more than a publicity gimmick. It works. Since 1950, 495 people have featured on the list and 465 have been captured – the most recent being the fugitive Boston gangster, James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Los Angeles last June.
Bin Laden may have been found as a result of intelligence work and electronic intercepts in a foreign country, but 153 of those named have been caught following a tip-off from the public.
Some things, though, have changed over the years. FBI wanted posters used to be displayed in post offices and other public places. In this electronic age, television and the social networks are the most fruitful means of dissemination. However, many of the principles underlying the list are the same.
America was, and is, a huge place where news is mostly local, and in which it is relatively easy to disappear or assume a new identity. The national exposure of fugitives, complete with several pictures, can jog memories, particularly if he or she has distinguishing features. In Mr Toth's case, these are a lanky frame and a mole under his left eye.
"He's the type of person that, I hope, with a little help from being on the Top 10 list, will lead to individuals calling in, saying 'that guy works in a day care centre, or is a teaching assistant, or works down the street'," an FBI spokesman, Kevin Perkins, said.
Murderers, gang leaders and fraudsters: The FBI's top ten
Topping the FBI's list of most-wanted criminals is a 30-year-old former private school teacher, who despite his all-American appearance is wanted for allegedly possessing and producing child pornography.
Painted by the FBI as an attention-seeker with an appetite for the high life, Brown is wanted for the 2004 robbery and murder of an armoured car guard in Arizona. An International Business graduate, Brown – whose hobbies include golf and skiing – is said to flaunt his ill-gotten wealth in nightclubs.
This alleged member of a Mexican drug cartel is a suspect in four killings stretching back to 1998, including two gang-related shootings and the kidnap, rape and murder of his girlfriend.
Using aliases including Miguel Carrera and Dennis McWilliams, this Miami-born 53-year-old has been on the run since 1991, when he escaped from a Mexican prison after allegedly murdering a fellow inmate. It was his second jail break, after escaping California's infamous Folsom Prison in 1987, where he was serving time for murder. He is now believed to be in the drugs trade.
He tried to paint a picture of the perfect family man, but this one-time firefighter and avid hunter apparently snapped one day in 2001, allegedly shooting his wife and slitting the throats of his two young children before blowing up their Arizona home. The FBI has named Fisher as the only suspect.
This Ukrainian businessman is accused of defrauding thousands of people in a multi-million-dollar investment swindle. He was indicted in 2003, and is believed to live in Moscow on his Russian passport.
In a bid to evade capture, this alleged hitman for a Mexican crime syndicate is said to have had plastic surgery and altered his fingerprints. Ravelo, also known as "2x4", is wanted on racketeering and drug possession charges.
In 2000, a five-year-old girl was found strangled in a Philadelphia flat. This Honduras-born handyman is wanted in connection with the killing.
Gerena, 53, has been on the run since 1983, when he allegedly took part in the armed robbery of a Connecticut security company. Two security guards were held hostage in a $7m raid. Gerena has been on the most-wanted list since 1984.
"Whitey'"Bulger remains on the FBI's list, but with the word "Captured" emblazoned over his mugshot. An infamous Boston mob boss wanted for murders in the 1970s and 1980s, he was tracked down to Los Angeles and arrested with much fanfare last year.
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