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FBI Press Conference: Longo Arrested in Mexico

Aired January 14, 2002 - 12:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go right now to the news conference. The FBI out in Oregon is now briefing us on the arrest of Christian Longo. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHARLES MATTHEWS, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: -- in the small town of Tolum, Mexico. Tolum is approximately 60 miles south of Cancun, and the arrest was without incident.

On Friday evening, a woman from Montreal area called FBI headquarters after seeing national and international publicity on the case, and after checking the FBI's web site. She had recently traveled to Cancun and recognized the photograph of Christian Longo. The woman said she arrived in Cancun on December 27, 2001 and that date met a man named Brad staying at a Cancun youth hostel. He later told her his name was Mike. She left the hostel herself on December 29, 2001.

Additional information was received at the American embassy in Mexico City that Longo had stayed at the Hostel Mexico (ph), a youth hostel in Cancun. Investigators determined that he had left that youth hostel on January 7, 2002. Publicity in Mexico helped investigators locate Longo at a beach camp in Tolum. He was living at the camp under the name of Michael Longo.

When approached by approximately 20 Mexican law enforcement officers and FBI agents, Longo confirmed his identify. Over the course of the next few hours, he agreed to transport directly back from Cancun to the United States this morning.

I'll take any questions.

QUESTION: Did he say anything when he was captured?

MATTHEWS: Other than identify himself, I'm not able to go into any of the specifics of any of the conversations with him.

QUESTION: Do we now know a motive -- can you now release the motive?

MATTHEWS: I can't discuss that.

QUESTION: Mr. Matthews, we talked so much on Friday about extradition and how Mexico doesn't like sending people back where death penalty is in play.

QUESTION: How did you get him back here? How did that work out?

MATTHEWS: He voluntarily agreed to accompany the FBI agents on the flight from Cancun to Houston. Of course, at Houston he was taken into federal custody on the unlawful flight charge. He'll appear later today before a U.S. magistrate in Houston to answer the state charges in Oregon.

QUESTION: Is it true that it is then accurate that there was no agreement with the Mexican government regarding the possible death penalty?

MATTHEWS: I'm not aware of any agreement. He voluntarily returned, so that was not an issue.

QUESTION: Mr. Matthews, any idea when he might be back here in Portland, or in Oregon?

MATTHEWS: No. He was arrested in Houston, of course, for federal unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He'll have an initial appearance on that charge today where he'll be given an opportunity of waiving an extradition to Oregon or becoming involved in a process to have him extradited back to Oregon.

QUESTION: Has he been interrogated yet?

MATTHEWS: I can't discuss any of the conversations with him since his arrest.

QUESTION: Any idea when he's due back in Oregon?

MATTHEWS: A lot has to do whether he'll waive extradition from Texas to Oregon, and it could be very soon if he waives that extradition.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what his physical state is like, how he is?

MATTHEWS: Well, from the information I have, he appears to be OK. There's nothing to indicate that he's not. He was living in a beach camp down in Tolum, very modest resources. He was staying with one other individual who apparently does not know who he was or why he was wanted.

QUESTION: Talk about this woman from Montreal (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MATTHEWS: Well, it was obviously a response to the publicity that you helped us generate, and largely that helped us focus in the area we needed to focus in. And then additional publicity in the Cancun and the Tolum area finally focused on exactly where he was.

QUESTION: Will she become eligible for any reward?

MATTHEWS: Well, that's something that will be determined later, as we actually piece through exactly how this came together. QUESTION: This woman from Montreal knew to check in Cancun, but what led authorities 60 miles south?

MATTHEWS: Well, once we realized the youth hostel that he had been staying in in Cancun, inquired there, determined that he had been asked to leave, and left sometime around January 7. Additional inquiries determined that he had discussed going to Tolum with other people who had been staying there, so the investigation started focusing in the Tolum area.

QUESTION: Why was he asked to leave?

MATTHEWS: Apparently, there was money stolen from other people at the youth hostel. Although it's not directly associated with him, he left shortly after that became apparent at the youth hostel.

QUESTION: How long did you have him under observation at the beach camp?

MATTHEWS: Just a matter of a few hours. Once we got there, just enough to set up and ensure that we're dealing with the Michael Longo that we were looking for. He was just discovered yesterday.

QUESTION: So Mexican police made the arrest?

MATTHEWS: Right.

QUESTION: But you were present, though?

MATTHEWS: Yes. The district police from the Cantera state actually made the arrest. FBI agents from Mexico City were with them at the time, but the arrest was obviously made by the Mexican authorities.

QUESTION: What sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) name was he using and did that help to apprehend him?

MATTHEWS: Apparently, he was using the name "Brad" at one time at the youth hostel, although he was using the name Michael Longo, or at least Michael, with the individuals he was associating with in Tolum, and he acknowledged his identity when approached by law enforcement.

QUESTION: What would you say about his ability to elude authorities for that period of time?

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it obviously took the publicity that we generated through the top 10 and through other processes to help us focus in on him. My understanding was is that he told investigators he was planning on traveling onto Guatemala, had he actually been able to leave the Tolum area.

QUESTION: Did he continue to steal credit card information or identities (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MATTHEWS: I don't have any further information on how he was financing, although it seems like he was financing it very modestly at the time he was arrested.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the publicity on Friday, how much it would help out. This couldn't have gone much better or smoother, considering his time on the list, and now he's in, you know, 48 hours later, he's in jail.

MATTHEWS: Well, obviously, we're pleased. And I had an opportunity to talk to the DA in Lincoln County this morning, the sheriff down there, and, of course, they're very pleased and anxious to, you know, proceed on with their case.

QUESTION: Again, did they have to make a deal not to seek the death penalty to get him out?

MATTHEWS: I'm not aware of any agreement of any sort. He voluntarily agreed to accompany the FBI agents to the airport, where he got on a Continental Airlines jet and flew from Cancun to Houston on his own volition.

QUESTION: This collection of tents, what was this beach camp like?

MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. It's a grass hut, was the way it was described to me, on the beach.

QUESTION: Did he seem to be aware that he could have made things more difficult by trying to invoke a right to fight extradition?

MATTHEWS: I don't have those details. I just simply don't know.

QUESTION: The woman in Montreal, do you know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the 10 most wanted show? Is that where she got her information?

MATTHEWS: You know, I'm not sure about that. I know she initially called in earlier, before the show was broadcast, but was then asked by our people to actually look at the broadcast to help her be sure. Whether she initially saw any promotions for the AMW show or other publicity, I'm not aware right now.

QUESTION: Did he try to change his appearance at all?

MATTHEWS: I'm not aware.

QUESTION: Did she mention that he talked about having a family or anything like that?

MATTHEWS: If she had, I wouldn't be able to go into those details at this time.

QUESTION: Do you know why he stayed so long in the Cancun area?

MATTHEWS: No. No.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, by choosing not to fight, that allowed him to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Is that the way it works out? If he would have chosen, then we would have had to get to negotiations. MATTHEWS: Yes. I mean, he volunteered to leave Mexico for the United States, so I presume that that was adequate to satisfy whatever requirements that needed to be satisfied.

QUESTION: Did he return on a commercial flight or was it (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MATTHEWS: No, it was a commercial flight from Cancun to Houston, accompanied by the FBI agents that were actually in Cancun.

QUESTION: His family, I'm sure that they've been notified. Any response from them that he has now been caught?

MATTHEWS: I know we've discussed it. I'm not aware what the specifics are, but I know we've discussed it with them.

HARRIS: There we have the FBI agent, Charles Matthews briefing the press on the latest details surrounding the arrest of Christian Longo, who was, just days ago, was put on the FBI's ten most-wanted list.

He has been apprehended, as we reported earlier, in Mexico. He was picked up off a beach camp near Tolum, Mexico, which is near the resort city of Cancun, which is where he had been staying.

He had been in a youth hostel, apparently, in Cancun, and apparently a lady there at that youth hostel who had seen the FBI's website, and had seen some of the publicity that had been put out by the FBI, and Mexican authorities as well, actually recognized him there.

He had been using another alias there, using the name Michael or Mike Longo there, and apparently he had been there since just after Christmas, and as of January 7th, he left the hostel and then went to this beach camp in Tolum, and Mexican authorities picked him up there, he also -- he did say that he went voluntarily with the FBI who picked him up from Cancun to Houston, and no word on when he is going to be appearing in Oregon.

Right now, he is going to be seeing -- they are arranging for him to see a U.S. magistrate in Houston, where he will be arraigned for charges of -- federal charges of flight to avoid prosecution.

Let's check in now with our Susan Candiotti who is standing by in Washington. She has been covering this story for quite a while -- Susan, what do you make of this?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you always talk about publicity helping, and it certainly seems to have helped in this case. After all, apparently the tip that led authorities to Christian Michael Longo came from this woman from Canada, in Montreal, who saw his photograph, who saw news reports about Longo, and his -- the charges of murder.

He was allegedly charged with murdering his wife and his three young children ages two, three, and four. She sees this information, she sees the information on the FBI website, and she contacts authorities, and it was from there that you recapped what happened from there, that -- that the FBI tracked him, therefore, to Mexico to these beach camps. He spent at least a week or two there.

He was asked to leave, you heard, asked to leave that youth hostel because there had been some money stolen from it, and while that was not pinned on him directly, apparently he was asked to leave, told authorities that if he stayed longer in Mexico, his next plan was to go on to Guatemala.

But once they had tracked him to this second beach camp, you heard them say that about 20 agents, Mexican authorities with an assist from the FBI, picked him up.

And with that, no extradition fight involved here, he agreed to go along with authorities back to the United States, crossing the border where he will now face these initial charges, as you indicated, unlawfully fleeing prosecution, and so then they now have to deal with -- once he makes that appearance -- deal with the state charges levied against him in Oregon for the murder of his wife and three children.

You will remember that all of this, Leon, started back in December, very tragically, when one of the three children's bodies was discovered in a bay of water in Oregon, and no one had claimed the children's body, and then a tip on Christmas Eve, I believe it was, then led the FBI to some relatives of Longo in Michigan.

They identified the children,and that eventually led to suspecting him in this case, and now, in very short order, after simply putting him on the list on Friday, they found him just a few days later, very quick work indeed.

HARRIS: Once again, the FBI maintains its batting average. Once a name makes it on that ten wanted list, they pretty much do find them eventually.

Susan Candiotti in Washington. Thank you very much.

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