Sao Paolo, Brazil & Quantico, Virginia.
Tuesday, March 5th - Wednesday, March 6th, 2019.
Had he decided to cut payroll, specifically by dispensing with all or some of his oranges, Geistmann had realized he would have become electronically vulnerable. But his confidence that continuing to employ these people made him invulnerable turned out to be misplaced. For, just before dawn on Tuesday, March 5th., the day after he set out for Asheville, using state-of-the-art Italian and Russian malware, a team of technical specialists from Brazil's Federal Police Department (which had been trained as part of INTERPOL's Global Action on Cybercrime Extended, or GLACY+) raided a major HackerNest in Sao Paolo.
The soft interrogation that followed was supervised by Agent Bob Martinez, Chief of the FBI's Cybercrime Task Force (CCTF). Martinez had flown to Brazil on a Bureau jet from London, where he had been attending a conference. With surprising ease, his team was able to turn one of the oranges, a fifteen-year-old girl whose handle was "Pasteis Patsy," and whose actual name was Lyudmila Santos-Oliveira. Once "Pee-Pee," as she was called by friends and associates, had guided Martinez through the convoluted byways of the accounts of her clients, including those of Senor Armando-Tomaz Fantasma, it was "open sesame." By 10 a.m. that day, Geistmann's texts, emails, phone calls, credit card transactions, and so on, had all been de-encrypted. The Bureau could now follow his electronic footsteps as if he were leaving bread crumbs.
The next questions were where and how to take him. To VICAP Director Fred Neugeborn, the second question was, more specifically, how to take him alive. For Neugeborn had not forgotten the oft-expressed hope of his friend and colleague, Pablo Markowitz, Chief Psychiatrist of the Bureau's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), to be able to subject Geistmann's brain to a battery of tests -- the MMPI, Eysinck, SCID-ll, and tMRI. The results would potentially assist the Bureau to comprehend, and thus to apprehend, other psychopathic killers. As Markowitz quipped, "His brain would be a national treasure."
The psychiatrist had recently forwarded several articles to Neugeborn. Their gist seemed to be that psychopathic brains do not change in different ways from other aging brains. As for cerebral narcissists, their behavior does not change significantly, either, but what they have already done, or undone, now puts them at greater risk. Fred's response was typically pragmatic: "Let's hope," he wrote to Pablo, "his reflexes have slowed down."
On Tuesday morning, when Neugeborn learned of the Sao Paolo raid, he had been working in Naples with colleagues from the Guardia di Finanza. Shortly after noon, he caught a Bureau jet back to the Academy, which was on the grounds of the Marine Corps base, in Quantico, Virginia. (Ever since 2008, Neugeborn had maintained an office there, to distance himself from the bureaucratic hassles at the Hoover Bulding.)
Owing to the six-hour time difference, he did not arrive at Quantico until Wednesday at 0200. After a few hours of sleep on the office couch, he breakfasted at his desk. At six a.m, he telephoned Johanna Stark, Director, FBI Resident Agent, Charlotte, N.C., in the South Atlantic division of the southern region. Stark and her driver arrived at Quantico at 1137 hours.
Working together in a secure room, and using the intercepts made possible by "P.P.'s" disclosures, the two Directors forged a plan to capture Geistmann. (They did not refer to him as "Subject.") First, they considered his likely itinerary. A credit card transaction revealed that his starting point had been Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. For destination, he had listed, "Asheville, North Carolina."
"That seems reckless," Stark observed.
"He can be reckless, at times. Confrontational, too," Fred explained. "Besides, he didn't know his information would be compromised." But, after the car rental, they found no further credit card transactions.
"Maybe, he got wind of the bust," Stark suggested.
"Could be. The Bureau isn't exactly leak-proof. Or he's just reverted to his usual caution." Whatever the reason, Stark and Neugeborn realized that, without more "bread crumbs," they would have to rely on guesswork.
Had Geistmann traveled by the most direct route to Asheville, via Interstate highways I-65 and I-75, the drive would only have taken nine or ten hours. But the Agents agreed that he might have anticipated "Wanted" posters, or even roadblocks, on the Interstates. So they guessed he was more likely to have meandered down from Evanston on local roads, such as U.S. routes 31, 421, 21, and 441. Although this route was sometimes called "the doggy trail," Neugeborn, who knew him best, guessed that Geistmann would not have been travelling with a pet. Allowing for pit stops, the trip should have taken between thirteen-and-a-half and seventeen or eighteen hours.
Neugeborn also pointed out that Geistmann's modus operandi featured multiple disguises, so that, even though they knew the color, make and model of his rental car, it would have been tricky to apprehend him on the road. "Besides," he added, "he's in Asheville already. Anyway, it's easier to hit a stationery target." After he said this, he reminded himself that the idea was not to "hit" Geistmann.
Next, they addressed the question of timing. Since they knew he had rented the car at 1630 on Monday afternoon, his ETA should have been Tuesday, sometime between early morning and early afternoon. They decided to allow him three full days, after the long road trip, to rest and to sniff around for signs of a trap. Both while he had been travelling, and while he was sniffing, they assumed he would be on high alert. They also reasoned that they could not count on apprehending him while he was asleep, because, after the long drive, his sleeping habits would be even more random than usual.
"After he catches up," Fred suggested, "maybe he'll relax (although he never really does)."
With all of these 'if's" in mind, they concocted their plan. Sometime Friday, the team members would separately arrive in Charlotte, where they would be accommodated at local motels, also separately. On Saturday, March 9th, at 0800, they would rendezvous at Stark's office for a final logistical meeting over breakfast. After that, accompanied by a support team of armorers, they would travel in convoy, on State Road 321, west to Asheville. Their ETA would be 1200. The apprehension was scheduled for Saturday afternoon, exact time to be decided by an estimate of the least crowded place on Geistmann's Saturday itinerary.
This itinerary was, of course, not yet known. If Geistmann continued on a cash-only basis, they would have to rely on another option: to assume that someone among his host of enemies, with better information than theirs, would also be on the scene. But, since it could not be assumed that the other hunters would wait until Saturday, this option, too, was problematic.
"Let's just hope," Stark concluded, "he runs out of cash, or decides to revert to plastic."
Having done their best to plan the time and place of the apprehension, they began putting together a team. In mid-afternoon, when they had finished compiling a list, Stark headed back to Charlotte for further work on the logistical details for Friday and Saturday.
Fred was left to do the actual recruiting, by means of Zoom (via the Bureau's secure account) and telephone (also secure). But in case new information needed to be factored into the operational plan, the two Agents remained on speakerphone. In the event, from motives ranging from careerism to glory hunting and love of danger, every single person that Neugeborn contacted agreed to participate.
His first call was to Wayne Hughes, Director, INTERPOL, Washington, D.C. (under the US Department of Justice). Before accepting the invitation, Hughes asked Fred to check with his boss, INTERPOL Secretary-General Franz Schweinsteiger, in Lyon. Known for his bluntness, Schweinsteiger quickly endorsed the plan to capture, rather than kill, Geistmann, but with one caveat: "As long as this doesn't turn into another FBI cluster-fuck." His predecessor, Donald Warfield, had obviously told Schweinsteiger about the 2008 debacles at Shenandoah and on the Navajo reservation. Luckily, Schweinsteiger did not hear Johanna Stark chuckling on the speakerphone.
With Hughes on board, next to be recruited was Wesley Robinson, FBI Director for Mid-Atlantic States. Wes's knowledge of Asheville and environs would be invaluable for the apprehension. But Neugeborn also realized that the former Marshal would require close scrutiny. Since he was known to have maintained close personal ties with Scott Peters, the VICAP Director realized that, despite his presumed commitment to capturing Geistmann, when the moment of truth arrived, Wes might try to kill him.
Primarily for that reason, Diodur Fedoruk was also brought on board. On the phone call to Antibes, where Fedoruk was ostensibly recovering from a mysterious ailment, Neugeborn issued specific instructions: "Stay close to Wes, Diodur. If he gives any indication of wanting to kill Geistmann, let me know, pronto. If there isn't time, just shoot him -- Wes, that is!"
For insurance against Geistmann's possible escape, Neugeborn also arranged for three Bureau sharpshooters to be on hand. To prevent miscommunications, they would be reporting directly to him, the VICAP Director, who would personally lead the apprehension. Also present would be about a dozen representatives of State Police SWAT teams and other local law enforcement agencies. Their inclusion was Stark's idea. Without asking, Neugeborn understood that her motive was to appease sensitivities about "big-footing," the Bureau's infringement on local turf. Although they both knew the added bodies would increase the chances of a "cluster fuck," they agreed it was a risk worth taking. The preferred outcome was, of course, to take Geistmann alive.
John Rocker, Agent-in-Charge for Western Europe, was the next to be brought on board. Fred reached Rocker at his office in Paris, where, by now, it was mid-morning. Although he had played a leading role in the first 2013 farce, the powers-that-be had absolved him of personal responsibility. Since that fiasco had taken place in Shenandoah National Park, like Wes Robinson, Rocker was brought in for local knowledge, in his case of the territory through which Geistmann would have traveled from Indianapolis, down through Appalachia, to Asheville.
"But he's here already," Stark objected. "Why does it matter what he did on the way?"
"You never know," Neugeborn replied. "Maybe, he bought a bazooka, or something, in Virginia."
Finally, after a long discussion, again via speakerphone, Stark and Neugeborn decided to add one last person to the team: the civilian, John Robinson. The hope was that Robinson could reprise, but more successfully, the role he had played in the Chisinau dungeon, in 2008, which Neugeborn summarized for his colleague. "As the nearest thing to a living friend Geistmann has," he added, "Robinson may be helpful in getting him to lower his guard, which might make it easier to take him alive." Once again, Stark kept her doubts to herself.
If readers are interested in Reading Geistmann, it is available as a free PDF from the author. Please visit www.ronsinger.net for contact information.
And Geistmann in Africa (Geistman II):