Domestic Terrorism: After 12 Years on the Run, Joseph Dibee Has Been Apprehended

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee captured on Aug. 10, 2018, for conspiracy to arson of ski resort in Vail Colo.

Domestic Terrorism: After 12 Years on the Run, Joseph Dibee Has Been Apprehended

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, one of two remaining fugitives linked to a domestic terrorism group that carried out dozens of criminal acts in the late 1990s, ranging from vandalism to arson, has been apprehended.

The 50-year-old fugitive, a U.S. citizen who had been on the run for 12 years, made an initial court appearance in Portland, Oregon today. He faces additional federal felony charges in California and Washington State.

The 1998 arson of a Colorado ski resort by a group known as The Family drew international attention to eco-terrorists—those who break the law in malicious and criminal attempts to supposedly protect the environment and animal rights – shown to be false by the locale of their capture in a Communist country.
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Federal authorities learned that Dibee was traveling through Central America on his way to Russia with a planned stop in Cuba, according to court documents. With assistance from Cuban authorities, he was detained there before boarding a plane bound for Russia and was returned to the United States.

Dibee fled the U.S. in December 2005. In 2006, he was indicted along with 11 co-conspirators as part of Operation Backfire, a long-running FBI domestic terrorism investigation. The conspirators, known as The Family, have been linked to more than 40 criminal acts between 1995 and 2001, including arson and vandalism, causing more than $45 million in damages. The Family’s 1998 arson attack on a ski resort in Vail, Colorado—which caused estimated damages of $26 million—was its most notorious act.

“The crimes they committed were serious and dangerous,” said Special Agent Tim Suttles, who has been working the Operation Backfire investigation from the FBI’s Portland Division since 2004. “Just because time passes doesn’t mean the FBI forgets. We are very gratified to have Dibee in custody.”


Ten years ago this month, the FBI initiated Operation Backfire—the takedown of the most prolific domestic terrorism cell of the time. The group, known as The Family, was tied to more than 40 criminal acts ranging from vandalism to arson between 1995 and 2001, causing more than $45 million in damages. The cell’s 1998 arson attack on a ski resort in Vail, Colorado was its most notorious crime: estimated damage for this one event was $26 million.

In all, 17 individuals were indicted for their involvement with The Family, but a decade later, two remain fugitives: Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Joseph Dibee. The FBI has just released an age-progressed photograph of Overaker. If you have information on the whereabouts of either of these fugitives, please contact your local FBI office, nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or submit at tip at


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