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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sean Tepfer Honored By FBI For Past Investigation

ROANOKE, VIRGINIA -- During a ceremony this morning at the United States Attorney’s Office, Michael Morehart, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Richmond Division and Jeff Taylor, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent in Roanoke, presented Sean Tepfer, the Law Enforcement and Intelligence Specialist for the United States Attorney’s Office, with a certificate of commendation for his lead role in the investigation of a hate crime while Mr. Tepfer served as a detective with the Farmington, NM Police Department.

The investigation by Mr. Tepfer lead to the first use of federal charges under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was enacted in October 2009. More specifically, three defendants were convicted of assaulting a Navajo man with significant cognitive impairment. The defendants branded the victim by heating a wire hanger on a stove and burning the victim’s flesh, causing a permanent swastika-shaped scar on his arm. The defendants further defaced the victim’s body with white supremacist and anti-Native American symbols, including shaving a swastika in the back of the victim’s head and using marker to write the words “KKK” and “White Power” within the lines of the swastika. The case was complicated because the defendants took advantage of the victim’s developmental disability to induce him to make a cell phone video in which he purportedly consents to the branding. Rapid and diligent police work by Sean and other law enforcement individuals ensured that the defendants ultimately received sentences between five and eight and one-half years.

In the commendation to Sean, former FBI Director Robert Mueller states that the “FBI extends its appreciation for your outstanding assistance in a joint investigative effort. Your contributions were immeasurable, and you have the gratitude of the FBI for all you did to help accomplish the objectives of the investigation. You can be proud of the role you played, and I join my associates with whom you worked in congratulating you on a job well done.”

Sean Tepfer and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Morehart

Updated April 14, 2015