Thursday, January 28, 2010

wannabe teabagger "plumbers" get punked

NOLA | Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. All four men were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senator's offices. He spoke on condition of anonymity because that information was not included in official arresting documents.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street on Monday about 11 a.m., dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th-floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.

When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affidavit, observed O'Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O'Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.

After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn't working. Flanagan did the same.

They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and Flanagan and Basel went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men's credentials. They said they left them in their vehicle.

The U.S. Marshal's Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.

Landrieu said: "This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff. The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."

Landrieu's Republican counterpart, Sen. David Vitter, called for a racketeering investigation against New Orleans-founded ACORN last year in the wake of O'Keefe's videos.

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