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August 9, 2018Boston, MA, United StatesOperational

ICE HSI Boston, US Attorney, FBI announce arrest for contract killing threat of ICE agent via Twitter

BOSTON — A Cambridge, Massachusetts man who online called for the contract killing of an ICE agent was arrested Thursday following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.

Peter C. Fitzhugh, HSI Boston special agent in charge, joined U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling and Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge, of the FBI Boston to announce the arrest of a Massachusetts man Thursday in connection with the tweeting of a murder-for-hire solicitation to kill ICE agents for $500. The charges grew out of a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation that will now be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts.

Brandon J. Ziobrowski, 33, was charged in an indictment unsealed Thursday with one count of use of interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person. Ziobrowski was arrested Aug. 9 in New York and will appear in Boston at a later date.

According to court documents, in 2009 Ziobrowski created a Twitter account registered under the username @Vine_II. Ziobrowski is alleged to have begun posting tweets that promoted violence against law enforcement in February 2018 and specifically against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and officers in March 2018. On March 1, 2018, in response to a tweet from an ICE Field Office Director stating that ICE officers put their “lives on the line to arrest criminal aliens,” Ziobrowski posted a message that read: “Thank you ICE for putting your lives on the line and hopefully dying I guess so there’s less of you?”

On July 2, 2018, Ziobrowski allegedly tweeted: “I am broke but will scrounge and literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ice agent. @me seriously who else can pledge get in on this let’s make this work.” It is alleged that Ziobrowski’s tweet was designed as a threat to encourage violence and the murder of federal law enforcement agents. At the time of the tweet, Ziobrowski had 448 Twitter followers.

While conducting searches of the Internet for any domestic and international terrorism threats. the Department of Homeland Security’s Current and Emerging Threats Center in Washington, D.C., found Ziobrowski’s July 2, 2018 tweet and disseminated an alert to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including ICE field offices.

“Threats to law enforcement, no matter how they are communicated, are never taken lightly. The fact that this death threat was communicated over social media does not in any way diminish the seriousness of the threat, nor the danger posed by the individual who made it,” said Fitzhugh. “Not only do these threats not intimidate the men and women of the agency, they only serve to strengthen our determination in carrying out the mission that we have been solemnly sworn to uphold."

The Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into the threats utilized a wide range of tools that HSI employs to investigate crimes, including the analysis of investigative leads verified through a team of highly-trained HSI special agents and intelligence analysts specially trained in investigating cyber related crimes.

The investigation was conducted with the assistance of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston and New York and with assistance from Texas Department of Public Safety; it will be prosecuted by the Office of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling.

Updated: 10/08/2020