A Commissar Rises: Wendy J. Olson's Reign of Terror

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by William Norman Grigg

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As the financial manager of the West Coast Auto Company in Boise, Monte Johnson often did business with out-of-state customers. He probably didn't see anything unusual when he was approached by two potential buyers claiming to be from Miami.

As someone who had served a short prison stint, Johnson may have discerned that these customers were of dubious character before they identified themselves as drug dealers. It's a pity that Johnson didn't suspect that they were actually employed by a far deadlier and more despicable criminal syndicate — the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS operatives offered to buy two vehicles, a Jeep Cherokee and a Mercedes, for $55,000 in cash — if Johnson agreed not to use the customers' "real" names or file the federal paperwork required for cash transactions in excess of $10,000. The same duo returned the following January to make a second purchase on the same terms.

These transactions were known to Kurt Bates, general manager of the used car dealership, and an associate named Michael McCormick. Eventually all three of them would be arrested and accused of participating in a money laundering conspiracy.

Under what we're told to call federal "law," those transactions are considered illegal. This is not to say, however, that they involved actual crimes. None of the deals inflicted any injury to anybody. The only fraud involved in the affair was that committed by the IRS's tax-fed provocateurs. To the extent that a criminal conspiracy existed, the Feds were the perpetrators, and those involved in West Coast Auto were the victims.

According to Idaho law the Feds committed an act of "criminal solicitation" for which they should have been prosecuted and punished "in the same manner and to the same extent" prescribed for the offense being solicited. This means that the IRS's bit players should now be serving prison terms, rather than trolling for fresh victims.

Johnson was given a three and a half year prison term and a $60,000 fine. Bates was just sentenced to a year in prison and three years of probation. Bates, it should be pointed out, was not actually involved in the transactions with the supposed drug dealers. He was accused of "misprision of felony" — that is, failure to report the illegal transactions to the police.

What would have happened if Bates had called the police to report the transactions? Would the federal provocateurs have shed their disguises and heartily commended him for his public-spiritedness? Would the Feds have faced criminal charges for their own illegal acts if Bates had reported them? Or is it more likely that they would have contrived some other criminal charge against him in order to extort his cooperation as an informant against other potential victims?

As Harvey Silverglate has documented, the web of "laws" in which we operate leaves every American constantly vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Any of us could easily be charged with three federal felonies each day. Given this fact, it's reasonable to surmise that once the Feds had targeted West Coast Auto for a "sting" operation, they weren't likely to relent until somebody either went to prison, became an informant, or both.

One measure of the viciousness and cynicism that animated this operation is found in a deal that was offered to Johnson after he was indicted for money laundering. As noted earlier, Johnson served time in prison about a decade ago. In pre-trial negotiations, Wendy J. Olson, the federal prosecutor who afflicts the State of Idaho, offered Johnson a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Bates. But his value as a witness would have been diminished if his prior criminal convictions had been known to the jury.

In an effort to enhance Johnson's credibility as a witness, Olson's office filed a Motion in Limine seeking to prevent disclosure of Johnson's prior felony convictions. In other words, Olson intended to commit exactly the same act for which Bates would stand trial — that is, refusing to report felonious offenses. The only substantive difference here is that Olson, unlike Bates, actually succeeded in stealing something — in this case, a year of a man's life.

At about the same time Olson was working out her proposed deal with Monte Johnson, she was trying to imprison Bonners Ferry resident Jeremy Hill for the supposed crime of shooting a grizzly bear that threatened his family. In what she invited the public to perceive as an act of Olympian magnanimity, Olson settled for imposing a $1,000 fine for an act that was ruled legal and justified by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas.

"The United States Attorney's Office well understands Mr. Hill is a concerned husband and father who wants to protect his family," declared Olson with the practiced condescension of a career commissar as she stole $1,000 from the innocent man.

Boise resident Kirk Kyle Farrar can testify that Olson's solicitude toward working families expresses itself in peculiar and threatening ways.

On May 10, Farrar's home was invaded at 5:30 a.m. by armed men acting under Olson's orders. One of them snuck into the bedroom of Farrar's 12-year-old daughter, defiled her person by dragging her from her bed, and marched her downstairs. She was forced to lie down next to her parents with her hands behind her head. Another invader seized Farrar's shrieking two-year-old son from his crib and refused to allow his parents to comfort him.

"My son screamed for his mother for what seemed like an eternity," Farrar later recalled. "I will never forget the hopeless feeling of not being able to comfort my son or daughter."

The armed marauders who committed that home invasion were part of a multi-agency strike team organized by Olson to carry out "Operation Headshop — Not For Human Consumption," a simultaneous raid on 13 businesses in Boise, Kuna, and Nampa.

Nothing brings out the raw valor of law enforcement officers like the prospect of dressing up in paramilitary drag and laying siege to helpless, unarmed people in their sleep. Thus it's not surprising that Olson was able to assemble a large contingent of costumed pseudo-heroes from four police departments, the U.S. Marshals Service, the DEA, the Idaho National Guard — and, of course, the IRS — to carry out the pre-dawn raids on the homes and businesses of people who had been selling legal merchandise.

The pretext for the crackdown was the claim that some of the headshops were selling "spice," a recently criminalized variety of incense sometimes used as a substitute for marijuana. (Ironically, or perhaps predictably, marijuana — which has many documented health benefits — is much less dangerous than the synthetic substitute).

Farrar and his wife were owners of a smokeshop called "Piece of Mind." They were numbered among more than a dozen business owners charged with selling pipes described as "drug paraphernalia."

Farrar adamantly denies that his shop ever sold spice: "We made a commitment from the start not to carry it because we believe it is dangerous and not being used in a legal fashion." He points out that his cousin, who had no criminal record, has now been charged with four federal felonies "stemming from selling tobacco products" at his business.

As is always the case in such operations, the methods used were not dictated by a rational assessment of the risks involved, but rather chosen as a means of "sending a message."

Speaking at a post-raid press conference with uniformed poseurs providing a backdrop, Commissarina Olson insisted that the assault demonstrated that "federal, state and local law enforcement partners will attack drug trafficking on all fronts." She also insisted that open sale of any object she considers drug paraphernalia — including glass pipes that have been sold legally in Idaho for years — "promotes unlawful drug use and helps drug traffickers thrive."

By Olson's moral calculations, it is a far graver offense for a businessman to sell a glass pipe than it is for an armed stranger in body armor to invade the bedroom of a sleeping 12-year-old girl and drag her away, in her night clothes, at gunpoint. Olson's office has announced that it has broken nearly half of the defendants arrested in "Operation Headshop," all of whom have admitted to selling glass pipes, which had not previously been a prosecutable offense.

Like everybody else in her loathsome profession, Wendy Olson — who, it pains me to the depths of my soul to admit, was born and raised in Idaho — has never produced a marketable consumer good or provided a legitimate service. After being appointed to her current post by Barack Obama in 2010, Olson wasted no time in building a large network of undercover informants and devising remarkably novel ways to turn innocent people into criminals.

While Olson's efforts have done nothing to enhance the security of persons or property, they have been immensely lucrative for the coercive class. An October 4 press release from the Commissarina's office boasted that her staff had collected $84 million in fines, assessments, and forfeiture proceeds over the past year — ten times its operating budget.

Speaking at a recent Idaho Bar Association event, Olson said that her "future job prospects depend on the presidential election." This is patent nonsense. Whether or not the incumbent emperor secures a second term, the Regime's Homeland Security Apparatus will surely find a suitable position for a provincial functionary who presided over such an extravagantly profitable racket.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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