Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs, CBS-11 News, May 11
FORT WORTH — At home and off duty, Fort Worth Police Detective Scott Campbell never lets two semi-automatic Glock .45s stray far from his shooting hand. He sleeps with one, and while awake, he eats and watches television with both weapons close by. Det. Campbell’s wife keeps a loaded gun close at hand too, even though she is a stay-at-home mom who cares for the couple’s two young children, ages 4 and 1.
Det. Campbell and his wife go to these extraordinary lengths because they and their children have been marked for assassination. A ruthless criminal crime family he spent years investigating and helped break up in 2003 wants them dead. Federal authorities confirm that the Palestinian gang known as the “Ghali crime family,” which ran one of the nation’s most prolific retail theft rings from Fort Worth, has hatched what one top official called a “credible” plot from behind bars. The plot targets Campbell, his family, and Campbell’s longtime partner in the investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Scott Springer.
When informed of the contract hit targeting his family, Det. Campbell sent his wife and children into hiding for almost the entire month of March. In an exclusive interview with CBS-11 News at the time, Det. Campbell said he all but stopped thinking like a cop.
Agent Springer, an investigator with the Dallas-based office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment about the second assassination plot against him. In courtroom testimony about the first murder plot against him, Agent Springer testified that Ghali had told a jailhouse informant “that he would like to stand before our families and us and peel our skin off with a razor.”
The story begins nine years ago, when Det. Campbell and Agent Springer formed a special joint federal operation to investigate a North Texas-based infant formula theft ring that generated untold millions in ill-gotten gains. In the mid-1990s, a criminal gang of Palestinians and Egyptians was running a large network of thieves who would steal infant formula from retail shelves. They would sell it, for pennies on the dollar, to convenience store operators who were part of the organization. The merchandise would be repackaged and sold back to legitimate retailers and wholesalers. Large retail chains across Texas and elsewhere around the nation complained that similar theft rings run by Middle Eastern immigrants were costing them tens of millions of dollars in losses, but law enforcement seemed unable to do much.
But by 2000, the efforts by Campbell and Springer paid off in North Texas. The gang was dismantled in a series of raids and federal convictions that would later be overturned on various technicalities by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Remnants of the original gang led by Palestinian immigrant Mohammad Ghali and members of his family meanwhile moved in to fill the void. Immediately after the attacks of 9-11, informants called the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and other law enforcement agencies to allege that the Ghali crime family had built the illegal business back up. They allegedly were shipping millions in illegal proceeds to the Middle East to help finance terrorist groups.
On Sept. 12, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security initiated a terror financing investigation into the Ghali organization. Agent Springer and Det. Campbell were put in charge. They mounted an elaborate undercover operation that, over the next two years, would use video and audio surveillance, wiretaps and paid informants to uncover a vast operation earning up to $1 million per month. The organization was dismantled in mid-2003 with a series of raids and arrests that led to the indictments and convictions of more than 25 people.
Det. Campbell said it sometimes was difficult to monitor the diatribes while undercover.
“You hear these individuals come in and talk about President Bush, Iraq , how they hated us. I mean, these individuals here hated us. They wanted us dead. Their main complaint was how they hated our freedoms over here, how we were too fortunate to have freedoms like we have and that some of those freedoms have to be taken away and that we should pay for the sins of being Americans and Christians.”