In an unusual show of bipartisan unity, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will attend a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) with Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and other elected leaders to rally for a Northern Virginia FBI headquarters.
A release from Warner’s office said the elected leaders will hold a press conference in Springfield to lay out the case for bringing the proposed headquarters to Fairfax County.
According to the release:
The press conference comes as the FBI and the General Services Administration (GSA) work to finalize a location for the new headquarters after years of work on the project spanning multiple presidential administrations.
The press conference follows a letter from the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation and Gov. Youngkin, detailing the ways in which Springfield best meets the five selection criteria set forth by the GSA and FBI, which are: support for the FBI mission requirement; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity; and cost.
The bidding war over the FBI headquarters is possibly the most intense skirmish between Virginia and Maryland since 1865. Virginia is hoping to bring the FBI to a 58-acre site in Springfield, while Maryland is hoping to draw the FBI to Landover or Greenbelt.
The lineup looks like Coachella for Fairfax County elected leadership, with representatives Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer and Abigail Spanberger joining Youngkin and the senators, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, and representatives from other local organizations.
McKay previously accused Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) — multiple times — of unfairly trying to tip the scales in favor of the FBI purchasing a Maryland site currently owned by WMATA. Maryland, meanwhile, has argued that proximity to Quantico is being too heavily weighted in favor of Virginia.
The Board of Supervisors approved its own letter to the GSA and FBI last week advocating for the Springfield site, which currently a warehouse for the GSA right next to the agency’s headquarters.
The press conference is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. at Northern Virginia Community College (6699 Springfield Center Drive).
A Herndon man could face up to 15 years in prison for the production of child pornography, according to authorities.
Vincent Joseph Sarikey, 34, appeared in court yesterday (Monday) for allegations that he attempted to groom minors, pushed them record themselves partaking in sexual activities, and engaged in “sexually exploit discussions” with at least two people who identified themselves as minors, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Sarikey faces at least 15 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are usually less than maximum penalties.
Authorities believe the suspect encouraged at least two minors to produce sexually explicit materials and send them to him. Sarikey then allegedly provided the pictures to another individual who shared an interest in the minors, according to court documents.
Authorities say they found “hundreds of images and video of child sexual abuse material” on Sarikey’s electronic devices.
“These exchanges took place on several social media platforms, including Telegram, Twitter, and Discord under the monikers “John Lugne,” “@JLugne,” and “triadus#9325,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its news release.
The FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force investigated the issue. It’s charged with bringing federal charges against individuals who engage in human trafficking or the exploitation of children.
Photo via Google Maps
Fairfax County is seeking more state support for education, a return of $39 million for regional transportation projects and more in its recently approved legislative priorities for next year.
At a meeting last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the adoption of the county’s 2023 legislative programs for both state and federal lawmakers. It passed by a 9-1 vote with only Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity opposing.
The approval on Dec. 6 was, more or less, a formality with most of the discussion and debate happening in legislative committee meetings throughout the fall.
In addition to trash collection changes, here are a few of the most notable priorities in this year’s agenda:
Increase state support for education
Jointly with Fairfax County Public Schools, the county wants the state to better address the differences between “high cost-of-living jurisdictions like Fairfax County” and other Virginia localities when funding public education.
State education funding is based on complex formulas and varies from year to year. The county has long argued that the formulas don’t adequately account for its higher cost of living compared to other areas.
“Public education funding in the Commonwealth is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution as a joint responsibility of both state and local governments, so it is essential that the state fully and appropriately meet its Constitutional responsibility to adequately fund K-12 education,” the state legislative program says.
Also, both boards oppose “budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia” and “policies which divert K-12 education funding away from local public schools and toward non-public options.”
Allow traffic safety measures
Local elected county officials have maintained their call for more local authority from Virginia, where localities only have the powers explicitly granted them by the state.
As crash fatalities mount, the county is advocating for General Assembly legislation that lets localities create and post signage requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Legislation is also needed to clarify that counties can reduce speed limits below 25 miles per hour on state-maintained roads that lie in residential districts, according to the program. Without that authority, the county’s options for addressing speeding are limited.
Restore regional transportation project funding
The state diverted $102 million away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in 2018 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to cover Virginia’s share of Metro funding.
In the several years since, $63.5 million has been restored, but the NVTA is still looking for the remaining nearly $39 million to support road repairs, facility maintenance, and other transportation projects in Northern Virginia.
“This [money] will ensure that transportation projects continue to advance in Northern Virginia after decades of state underfunding,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the board’s legislative committee, said in his motion at the Dec. 6 meeting. Read More
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says Springfield would be an ideal choice for a new FBI headquarters — or would be if another agency wasn’t involved in an underhanded attempt to play favorites.
While it’s not exactly shocking that the county’s top elected official thinks Fairfax would be a good choice for the new FBI headquarters, McKay has gone a few steps past that and accused Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) of putting a finger on the scales.
The Springfield site is up against two Maryland locations: one in Landover and one at Greenbelt that is owned by WMATA. Since WMATA is funded by all three jurisdictions, McKay argued that it’s unfair for Fairfax to essentially be forced to fund their competition for the lucrative FBI headquarters deal.
The feud is nearly a decade old. McKay first raised these concerns in 2013 and repeated them in a letter last month. He urged the WMATA board not to consider the Greenbelt Joint Development Approvals plan, which would authorize Metro to make negotiations about the sale of the site with government entities, WUSA9 reported.
The Springfield site is currently home to a warehouse complex owned by the General Services Administration, which is in charge of the site selection process. The warehouse would need to be torn down before the FBI headquarters could be built.
Still, McKay said the site has easy access to several major highways and a direct link to the FBI Academy at Quantico.
“The Springfield site is owned by the federal government and has all the infrastructure, either in place or pledged, to support the relocation of the FBI headquarters,” McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “It has easy access to Interstates 95, 395, and 495, provides a direct link to Quantico on the VRE, has ample bus lines that stop onsite, and also has a Metro stop. It’s a no-brainer for the FBI and the GSA to choose Springfield for the next FBI headquarters.”
The GSA announced in late September that the new site will be determined by a three-person panel with two of its employees and one FBI representative. The panel will prioritize the site’s suitability to the FBI’s mission and transportation access, but cost, equity, and flexibility will also be considered.
Image via Google Maps
A Springfield man assaulted a U.S. Capitol Police officer with a barricade during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot by supporters of former president Donald Trump, federal prosecutors allege.
Joseph Brody, 23, was arrested on Sept. 15 and faces multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. announced Tuesday (Sept. 20).
Other charges relate to interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder, obstructing an official proceeding, occupying a restricted building, and disorderly conduct and picketing in a Capitol building.
The Department of Justice says Brody communicated and traveled with at least four other men before the insurrection, which investigators say was an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election where President Joe Biden beat Trump.
All aged 21 to 23, Thomas Carey of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Gabriel Chase of Gainesville, Florida; Jon Lizak of Cold Spring Harbor, New York; and Paul Ewald Lovley of Halethorpe, Maryland have also been arrested and charged in the criminal complaint, filed Sept. 12.
All five men are members of the white nationalist group America First, which opposes “the demographic and cultural changes in America,” an FBI agent says in a statement of facts.
According to the agent, CCTV footage showed the men entering the Capitol at 2:16 p.m. In the next 35 minutes, they entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and Brody went on the Senate floor, where he “filmed and/or photographed the desks of U.S. Senators.”
After leaving the Capitol, the men joined other rioters who were trying to breach a door to the north end of the building:
Brody assisted another rioter in using a metal barricade against a Capitol Police officer, knocking the officer back as he attempted to secure the North Door. Brody’s associates watched as he assaulted this law enforcement officer. The group then watched the destruction of media equipment, which had been surrounded by metal barricades. While there, both Brody and Chase participated in the destruction. Brody appeared to damage a corded phone, and Chase appeared to loot a pair of headphones. Lovley joined the circle and filmed the looters and rioters.
The FBI agent says Lovley was identified first with data provided by Verizon and Google. Investigators connected an Gmail address to a PayPal account, where he paid $84.72 to a Domino’s Pizza in Maryland and received Venmo payments from the four other men.
Brody, who allegedly used the screen name “Broseph Broseph” on Venmo, visually matched a man seen at the Capitol wearing a gray suit and striped tie, the statement of facts says.
While at the Capitol, the individual also had an American flag lapel pin and a neck gaiter sewn in the pattern of the flag that he appeared to be wearing as a face mask, based on photos in the statement.
After an initial appearance in D.C. the day of his arrest, Brody was released “pending further court proceedings,” the DOJ says.
More than 265 individuals have been charged with assaulting or impeding police during the insurrection, which resulted in over 870 arrests overall, according to the Justice Department.
Investigations into the attack by the FBI and a House select committee are ongoing.
A Fairfax man was sentenced to 52 months in jail yesterday (Tuesday) for conspiring to distribute drugs through the darknet in a conspiracy that extended to other Fairfax County residents.
Tyler Pham, 39, conspired to distribute peach tablets through the U.S. mail that were advertised as Adderall but actually contained methamphetamine, according to a U.S Department of Justice press release. Six other individuals previously entered guilty pleas in connection with the conspiracy and were sentenced to over 13 years in prison combined.
The co-conspirators lived in other parts of the county, including Springfield and Annandale, as well as in Alexandria.
Pham was sentenced for conspiring to distribute between 15 and 45 kilograms of the pills from about May 2019 through December 2019, according to the press release. Pham used the moniker “addy4cheap” on darknet markets, the Empire Market and Cryptonia.
Law enforcement agents purchased 767 tablets, weighing about 268 grams total, from “addy4cheap” between August 2019 and December 2019.
On Dec. 9, 2019, search warrants were executed at Pham and his co-conspirators’ residences, including the homes of Lien Kim Thi Phan, 37, of Fairfax, and Hon Lam Luk, 35, of Chantilly.
In the home of Phan and Pham, agents found 95 peach tablets, and in Luk’s residence, investigators found over 6,000 peach tablets weighing approximately 2.2 kilograms, all of which resembled those advertised on “addy4cheap” and those received by law enforcement through controlled purchases.
As of Dec. 10, 2019, “addy4cheap” had completed 3,665 sales on the Empire Market and received 2,568 reviews. Based on these reviews, “addy4cheap” had received approximately $482,572.10 in sales for an approximate 44,872 pills sold. As of Nov. 7, 2019, “addy4cheap” had fulfilled 140 transactions on Cryptonia.
Pham’s other co-conspirators were listed as Phan and Duong Nguyen, 29, of Springfield; Son Nguyen, 36, of Annandale; Dat Nguyen, 37 of Alexandria; and Trieu Hoang, 39, of Springfield.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, which includes local and federal agencies and members, conducted the investigation.
“The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious Dark Web marketplaces, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids,” the release said.
The full release is below.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Kitten Rescued in Groveton — Fairfax County firefighters from the Woodlawn station were dispatched to the 7000 block of Richmond Highway on Monday (June 27) after bystanders reported a stray kitten that got stuck in the engine compartment of their coworker’s SUV. First responders were able to “extriCATe the kitten without injury or damage to vehicle,” and a coworker of the original caller agreed to adopt the kitten. [FCFRD/Facebook]
(Correction: This article initially said the kitten was adopted by a firefighter, based on the department’s tweet about the incident.)
Vienna Proposes Tighter Regulation of Massage Parlors — “Council member Ray Brill Jr. requested that Town Attorney Steven Briglia provide possible town-code amendments to address the proliferation of massage establishments in Vienna and its surroundings, as well as possible illegal activity at unlicensed businesses.” [Sun Gazette]
Hidden Oaks Nature Center Reopens — “The newly expanded and renovated Hidden Oaks Nature Center reopened to the public on June 25. The nature center, at 7701 Royce St. in Annandale, had been closed for the past two years, first because of the Covid pandemic, then due to construction.” [Annandale Today]
Two Sent to Hospital by I-495 Crash — “Monday, 11:21 AM, units responded to I495 NB after Route 7 for 3 vehicle crash impacting main & express lanes. 1 van overturned. Crews worked efficiently to treat/transport 2 patients to hospital w/minor injuries. All lanes initially shutdown but reopened w/in 20 minutes.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
McLean Bible Church Lawsuit Dismissed — “The year-long legal fight between McLean Bible Church and a faction who accused leaders including David Platt of a ‘theological takeover’ has come to an end. On Friday, a Fairfax, Virginia, court dismissed a lawsuit from a group of current and former members of the Washington DC-area megachurch, who contested a June 2021 elder election for allegedly violating church bylaws.” [Christianity Today]
Reston Elementary School Gets Funds for Garden — “Lake Anne Elementary was recently awarded a $1,200 grant from EcoRise to create a community food garden. ‘It is our goal to produce food we can share with a food bank or members from our school community,’ said Consuelo Bachelet, a second-grade teacher at the school.” [Patch]
Fairfax County Eager to Draw FBI to Springfield — “No matter where it lands, federal officials suggest the FBI headquarters could host at least 7,500 personnel — about 3,500 fewer than what was pitched the last time around. Time, though, has only strengthened Springfield’s hand, [Board Chair Jeff] McKay said.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Approves $1M to Create Fund for Startups — “Fairfax Founders Fund will provide early capital to startup companies in Fairfax County. The fund will target early-stage technology companies with technical assistance grants of up to $50,000 to help them prepare for later stage investments.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]
Reston Electric Vehicle Company Announces New Investors — “Reston, Virginia-based Electrify America…counts German industrial giant Siemens AG among its big backers…Volkswagen has also increased its investment in the company. Siemens is the first outside investor. The new funding totals $450 million and values Electrify America at $2.45 billion, the company said.” [WTOP]
It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:48 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) A man from Lorton has been sentenced to 22 years in prison after he gave a young woman a Xanax pill laced with fentanyl and tried to hide evidence of her death in a storage shed, court documents show.
Julian A. Velasquez, 36, was sentenced yesterday (Tuesday) following a plea deal in federal court. It came after authorities found he provided the woman with the drugs, sold heroin to a man before calling 911, and lied to emergency responders, according to court documents.
Velasquez also admitted to providing narcotics to two people who died from overdoses, one in 2017 and the other in 2018.
The most recent death happened in 2020, when the woman — a friend of Velasquez from Los Angeles, who’s identified in court documents as E.M. — visited him to take drugs in anticipation of her birthday, according to an FBI affidavit. She died due to fentanyl intoxication.
“She’s no longer with her friends and her family and her community,” Fairfax County Police Department Chief Kevin Davis said of the 29-year-old victim.
FBI assistant special agent in charge Timothy Thibault also expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.
Velasquez picked up the woman from Baltimore’s international airport on Aug. 8, 2020, and he reported to 911 that she was unresponsive the evening of Aug. 9.
Before the 911 call, though, investigators found that Velasquez sold heroin to a male Vienna resident on Aug. 9, according to prosecutors.
“On August 9, 2020, Velasquez found E.M. unresponsive but he did not call 911 or seek medical assistance,” prosecutors said. “Velasquez instead called his friend and drug customer, Enoel Comsti, 27, of Vienna, to assist in removing evidence of drug use and drug distribution from the crime scene at Velasquez’s residence.”
Comsti saw the woman lying on the bed and attempted to administer Narcan to reverse the overdose, according to authorities. Velasquez then tried to clean up the residence and remove evidence of drug use, according to a statement of facts that he signed as part of the plea deal.
The pair then tried to reach a storage unit when Comsti’s vehicle broke down with two flat tires, according to authorities. Velasquez continued by foot to the storage unit to hide drug evidence.
After returning home, Velasquez called 911, asked for an ambulance and made false statements to emergency responders, denying that the woman had a drug overdose.
“Velasquez told the dispatcher that he could not tell if [E.M.] was breathing and indicated that it appeared that [she] was biting her tongue,” the FBI said. “Velasquez told the dispatcher that he believed [the victim] may be diabetic and confirmed to dispatch that it was possible [she] was having a diabetic emergency.”
During the news conference, Davis also described a good Samaritan law meant to protect people if they help get medical aid to an individual who overdoses.
In another plea deal, a federal judge sentenced Comsti in February to a year and nine months in prison for “aiding and abetting tampering with evidence.”
Meanwhile, authorities are currently prosecuting multiple cases caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in northern Virginia, federal prosecutor Jessica Aber said, in an effort to address not just low-level street crimes but international drug traffickers.
Aber said there’s a pill epidemic in the country in which pills are being laced with fentanyl. She said if you go to a party and someone gives you a pill, it could have fentanyl in it and kill you.
“If you are buying drugs on the dark web or other unlicensed licenses, you are potentially playing Russian roulette,” Thibault said. “Drug dealers are lacing virtually every drug with deadly fentanyl.”