Photos: Ten Most Memorable Federal Busts in Denver

More photos below.
More photos below.

What were the biggest federal crimes associated with Denver? The FBI has shared a history of the Mile High City's office, complete with vivid descriptions of busts going back more than half a century. Continue to see our photo-illustrated picks for the ten most memorable, arrayed in chronological order and featuring FBI text. Trace the mayhem through the decades below.

See also: FBI's Ten Most Wanted List 60th Anniversary: A Mug Shot Gallery of Colorado Connections

Number 10:

Its biggest aircraft sabotage case came in 1955. On November 1 of that year, an explosion blew a large hole in the side of United Airlines Flight 629, causing it to crash at Longmont, Colorado. All 44 passengers and crew were killed. Denver personnel and other Bureau people responded immediately to investigate the crash and to help identify its victims. They painstakingly pieced together the plane and discovered the remnants of a suitcase bomb. Jack Gilbert Graham immediately emerged as a suspect. He had taken out four insurance policies on his mother -- one of the plane's passengers -- before packing her suitcase with dynamite and driving her to the airport. Graham was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Number 9:

Raymond Edward Young.
Raymond Edward Young.

FBI Denver also played a key role in the early days of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program. The Bureau launched the initiative in 1950, and the next year, Denver agents captured Raymond Edward Young in the city, just four days after the Bureau had named him to the top ten list. Young was wanted for assaulting and shooting a police officer. Continue to keep counting down the ten most memorable federal busts in Denver.   Number 8:

The division pursued other violent criminals. During a nationwide search, Denver agents caught Francis Alexander Akers and Bradley Hinckley, two dangerous Pagan motorcycle gang members in early 1970. They were among the 10 gang members who had been indicted in Virginia for murder, abduction, and conspiracy related to the torture murders of two Satan's Saints gang members. Denver received a lead that the two fugitive Pagans, using aliases, had rented a car with Colorado license plates. Agents tracked them to a Boulder motel where they were sleeping. The agents were especially wary, as Akers was known to keep hand grenades on his person and in his car and to rig his automobile with dynamite to explode if apprehended. When arrested, Akers had a knife with a four-inch blade beside his bed, and Hinckley had a loaded .38 revolver under his pillow. By the time of their capture, agents in other offices had caught all but one of the 10 fugitives. Number 7:

Eugene Smaldone.
Eugene Smaldone.

The Denver Division also investigated a Colorado Mafia family during the 1970s. The family's "boss," Eugene Smaldone, was convicted and imprisoned in 1974 following FBI investigation. The next year, acting boss Clarence Smaldone, other family members, and various associates were convicted of interstate gambling charges in related investigations. The subsequent prosecutions were successful due to the quality of the division's work breaking the illegal multi-million dollar sports bookmaking enterprise. Continue to keep counting down the ten most memorable federal busts in Denver.   Number 6:

A screen capture from the April 19, 1976 edition of the Milwaukee Journal.
A screen capture from the April 19, 1976 edition of the Milwaukee Journal.

Lone criminals could be serious threats, too. In 1976, a man named Roger Lyle Lentz was fired from his job. He began drinking heavily and argued violently with his wife. Armed with a shotgun and revolver, Lentz hijacked a small aircraft in Nebraska and seized two hostages. Lentz' brother characterized him as suicidal and homicidal. Lentz commandeered the plane to Stapleton International Airport in Denver and demanded to be flown to Mexico. He shot at Denver agents several times from the plane. When attempted negotiations broke down, Denver agents--working with the Colorado governor and the Federal Aviation Administration -- got access to the transfer aircraft that Lentz demanded. They hid on board and waited as Lentz arrived, holding a gun to a hostage's head. One Denver agent suddenly yelled, "Do you want us to close the cabin door?" surprising the gunman who turned his head, diverting his attention from his hostage and giving agents a chance to shoot him. Lentz was killed, and the hostages were unharmed. Number 5:

John William Sherman.
John William Sherman.

In 1981, the Denver Division began hunting for Top Ten Most Wanted fugitive John William Sherman soon after he escaped from prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence for revolutionary terrorism and bank robbery. More than 40 Denver personnel set up physical and technical surveillance at several residences to outsmart Sherman. The investigation narrowed down his possible location, but he was known to possess materials to make false identities and was extremely security conscious. Denver's round-the-clock surveillance ultimately paid off when Sherman was apprehended without incident in Golden, Colorado. Continue to keep counting down the ten most memorable federal busts in Denver.   Number 4:

Photos: Ten Most Memorable Federal Busts in Denver

Later that decade, Denver investigated the notorious "Capital Hill rapist" suspected of attacking more than 30 women in capital hill region of Denver. The exhaustive interviews, technical surveillance, and relentless inquiries of Denver agents led to Quintin Keith Wortham being identified as the rapist and being captured in Georgia. Wortham was later linked to rapes in Louisiana, Georgia, New York, and Connecticut. In 1988, he received a 376-year sentence on 14 counts of rape and burglary. Number 3:

The Denver Division was also responsible for the Bureau's first major environmental crimes investigation. In the late 1980s, whistle-blowers at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility brought tales of illegal dumping, unsafe practices, and other dangers and crimes to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI. Working together, the agencies were able to show serious violations of the Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act. In the end, the company that ran the facility admitted wrongdoing and paid a significant fine. Continue to keep counting down the ten most memorable federal busts in Denver.   Number 2:

Najibullah Zazi.
Najibullah Zazi.

These new and strengthened capabilities were instrumental in the investigation of Najibullah Zazi, a citizen of Afghanistan with permanent resident status who resided in Aurora, Colorado. In early September 2009, Zazi drove from Colorado to New York City, planning to detonate explosives on the New York subway during rush hour. An encounter with U.S. authorities caused him to return to Colorado, where he was arrested. On February 22, 2010, Zazi pled guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, to conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and to providing material support to a terrorist organization. Number 1:

The division also continued to handle its many criminal investigative responsibilities. In July 2008, for example, 27 members of the Asian Pride street gang were indicted on 109 counts by a federal grand jury in Denver. Charges included conspiracy, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy. More than 10,000 tablets were seized, culminating in a two-and-a-half year investigation by the FBI and other members of the Metro Gang Task Force. Special Agent in Charge James Davis called the task force one of the most successful of its kind in the country.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.


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