Federal agents acting on a tip from an informant were expecting a high level criminal meeting when they stormed a mansion in Phoenix’s wealthy Biltmore community.
Special Agent Joan Edgar Tolson said a confidential informant had alerted the FBI’s elite Joint Operating Intelligence Division (JOI Division) to “a big, big sit-down involving shady characters” at the home, owned by local businessman Jack Hussein Londen.
Instead, the heavily armed, black-clad agents burst in on a heavily moneyed, black tie John McCain fundraising event.
“Our first thought when we saw how well dressed the crowd was was that we hit the mother lode,” Tolson told a press conference held at JOI Division headquarters. She said their warrant was issued based on the probable cause that Londen is a known kingpin in the insurance and media industries.
Republican National Committee spokesman Strom Hussein Frandle criticized agents for taking too long to realize their error. “JOI Division inconvenienced a lot of people and kept them from important, completely legal special interest activities,” said Frandle.
“She’s lost control, I’ll never know just why or understand,” he said of Tolson. He said he would have Tolson fired if it emerges she is not a Republican.
Tolson defended her agents. “A number of people made for the exits when agents first went in, so we thought we were in the right place,” Tolson said. He went on to say that one person detained trying to escape through the kitchen was released after he was identified as former Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas). Also questioned and released was fugitive financier Robert Vesco, who was found halfway out the bathroom window.
Sources say the McCain campaign has turned to small private fundraising events because of the need to distance the presumptive Republican nominee from President Bush, avoid large crowds of protesters, escape media scrutiny, and an inability to fill larger public venues.
However, Leilani Frandle (no relation) of the organization Sane People For the 50 States (SPF-50) told reporters that her group doesn’t object to McCain holding fundraisers in private, so long as there is ample sidewalk area out front. “We get nine to ten thousand anti-war protesters every time McCain comes back to Phoenix, your normal neighborhood sidewalks don’t have room for that many marchers.”
Strom Frandle said accommodating more demonstrators would not be possible, as crowd control would be a burden to local law enforcement. But Lt. Martin Hussein Milner of the Phoenix Police Department said that would not be a problem. “We always like the overtime,” Milner said.