No answers, mixed message in hit list probe: One year after shocking news, possible targets frustrated by lack of progress

Shawano Leader, Wisconsin/November 5, 2009

Exactly one year to the day after the community first learned of a federal investigation into an alleged hit list targeting 60 Shawano area residents, the FBI is no closer to providing answers and is sending mixed messages about the status of the case.

FBI Public Affairs Specialist Leonard Peace said Tuesday there has not been any activity on the case since the U.S. Attorney determined in September there was insufficient evidence to merit charges.

"No other actions have been taken since the U.S. Attorney sending it back and there hasn't been anything else connected to it," Peace said. "If something else develops, we will follow that, but at this point it's not a case that we're actively pursuing."

Those comments appear at odds with an October 26 e-mail from Green Bay FBI Agent in Charge Ray Greco to Shawano Mayor Lorna Marquardt, whose name appears on the list with a number of other elected officials.

In the e-mail, which discusses the possibility of holding an additional informational meeting with people named on the list, Greco said nothing has been set up because the case was still being investigated.

"Nothing has been scheduled regarding the meeting as there is still ongoing investigative activity in this matter," Greco wrote.

Asked about the discrepancy Wednesday, Peace said his comment that the case is not actively being pressed was not meant to suggest the case was closed.

"As far as the FBI is concerned it's an open matter," he said. "Ray is the supervisor on that case and if he has some things that he's doing, then I would take that as he's actively investigating some things, but as far as what those specific things are I wouldn't be at liberty to discuss them," Peace said.

Greco on Wednesday afternoon said he would not comment on the matter and any further comment regarding the case would have to come from Peace.

Since November of last year, a nervous community has waited for the investigation to be resolved, for some sort of closure, or at least some word regarding developments in the case.

The lack of information has left the community as much in the dark as it was a year ago, and some of those on the list increasingly skeptical of any resolution.

"I've been fighting the feeling of anger and disappointment as it relates to this whole alleged hit list," Marquardt said Tuesday.

The investigation began - or at least became public - on November 5, 2008, when the FBI gathered most of those whose names appear on the list in a meeting room at a local hotel and told them they were the victims of an implied threat requiring them to be watchful and vigilant.

Federal authorities linked the list to the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology and said three people on the list could be in danger of physical harm.

On November 14 of last year, local authorities held the first and only press conference about the case, saying there was a "person of interest" connected with the list who they said was affiliated with SIST.

Marquardt said she is not aware of the FBI interviewing any other persons whose names appear on the list.

Meanwhile, SIST attorney Alan Eisenberg has consistently maintained the FBI has not interviewed anyone associated with SIST.

"I find it strange no one has been approached," Marquardt said. "I have to wonder how much effort has been put into this investigation."

Marquardt also said the FBI has not given any indication the implied threat was not real or that security should be relaxed, in spite of the U.S. Attorney's decision in September.

Wescott Town Chairman Mike Schuler, whose name is also on the list, said he has given up any hope of a resolution.

"I have no confidence," he said. "None at all. I believe it will fall by the wayside."

Schuler said the latest conflicting messages from the FBI show nothing has changed. He also believes the FBI would have pursued the matter more aggressively if the threats involved the mayor of Green Bay instead of "little old Shawano."

"We hear the case is opened, we hear the case is closed, we hear there's going to be a meeting, we hear there won't be a meeting because it's still under investigation. It's the same old thing. Nothing has changed," Schuler said.

Schuler said his level of concern remains elevated, but not as high as it was a year ago.

"I'm not as nervous as I was," he said. "A year ago I was worried."

But Schuler said he is still being watchful of his surroundings and taking steps to protect himself and his family.

"You still never know," he said.

Peace said circumstances remain the same as they did a year ago as far as warnings to those on the list to be vigilant.

"Our position on it hasn't changed since the information came forth," he said. "We would always just encourage people to remain aware of their surroundings. It's our job to make sure people are always vigilant in reporting anything that they see or taking any information they may have related to the implied threats to the authorities and letting us know. That part has not changed."

In November of last year, federal authorities said the investigation into the list was a top priority of the FBI's Green Bay field office, which would use all necessary resources to resolve the matter.

The FBI has remained mostly silent since then, citing its policy of not commenting on investigations.

Shawano Police Chief Ed Whealon said local authorities have not been privy to most of the investigation, saying it was the FBI's case.

According to local authorities during last year's press conference, a Canadian resident described as a former business associate of SIST had turned the alleged hit list over to the FBI and was cooperating with the investigation.

SIST has denied the allegation. A press release issued by SIST alleged the city hired Robert Cameron of Ontario to swindle SIST out of $175,000 and then concocted the story of a threat list to rob them of that money - a charge Whealon called ludicrous.

In a brief interview with the Shawano Leader several months ago, Cameron was asked if he was still in contact with the FBI regarding the investigation. He said he was trying to put the matter behind him and move on.

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