Rod: Rod Bryant here and Jerry Gordon have another great show lined up for you. I am telling you Jerry our guest is an international man of mystery. When you hear about what this company is doing and what they have revealed, it is going to make your head spin. Jerry, tell our listeners who our guest is.
Jerry: Our guest is Yaacov Apelbaum. He is the Founder and CEO of this amazing company XRVision. XRVision is involved with video, facial recognition and advanced adaptive artificial intelligence. That sounds like a mouthful but after you listen to him today you will find out it is the tool of the future for law enforcement, security and most importantly intelligence.
Rod: You know there are a lot of people that are going to listen to the show and become a bit alarmed to say you mean these people have this kind of ability to analyze things and this is all open source material? This is too scary, but this is the reality of living in a post-modern age and in the 21st Century, right?
Jerry: It is. You are going to hear about some amazing exploits using this technology identifying two countries in Africa that have engaged in billion dollar a year military romance scams.
Rod: Right on Facebook and dating sites . . .
Jerry: On top of that you are going to find out how he has been able to unravel the fabricated narrative story of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar.
Rod: Let me tell you this is solid research. If you are listening to the show today, you need a pen and pad because you are going to find out that this woman is absolutely a made-up person. She is not who she says she is.
We are bringing on a very special guest Yaacov Apelbaum. We have some very intriguing information that we want to share. We were in a conversation with him prior to the broadcast and found out the very interesting work that he does with early stage advanced video facial recognition software and advanced artificial intelligence techniques. We wanted to interview him and share information with you that you may not obtain elsewhere on the internet or on radio.
Jerry: Yaacov you are the founder of early stage advanced video facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence applications firm called XRVision. Our listeners can certainly search on Google and find out all about you. Could you tell our listeners what XRVision’s security law enforcement and intelligent applications and customers?
Yaacov: Sure, so we formed the company in about 2016. We are a New York based company. We operate primarily from Long Island as an early stage start up. We specialize in video analytics and visual intelligence. Visual intelligence is an interesting field because it is a broad discipline of many types of analytics combined into a single product. We offer a specialized facial recognition (FR). Our facial recognition is different than the traditional FR by allowing us to operate on defective images, on partial images, in very difficult uncontrolled environments that are not always optimum in terms of illumination and light and the geometry of the cameras. We take the junk of the video world and we try to do something with that. We also support massive searches of image depositories for content and meaning. For example, we can traverse a lot of images on the internet as well as other locations and derive some actionable intelligence out of those images, link them together to identify what is inside those images. That is our forte: video analytics.
Rod: One of the stunning examples XRVision’s law enforcement applications that you shared with us was infiltrating an African scamming operation. Now most people may or may not be aware of it but basically networks of Africans and other places of the world are exploiting what is called military romance predatory appeal. They have a stunning Army Officer or soldier and they make a connection to a woman on Facebook or via a romance app. Pretty soon they have hooked them in, and it isn't long before they stole from them hundreds of thousands of dollars. You said that this might amount to between 5 to 15 percent of the gross income for Ghana and Nigeria.
Yaacov: You know it's difficult to get some figures because the UN statistics for countries’ GDP don't show any scamming activity whatsoever as a source of revenue. However, we know from other sources that the Nigerian and Ghanaian scams for example generate upwards of a billion dollars per year each. All that revenue seems to exist under the radar. We know from several sources that a typical romantic scam can cost a victim anywhere between $120,000 to $500,000. Once those scamming artists bite into a victim it is very difficult for the victim to let go. Because during the initial exchange when the relationship is established, they will typically solicit some compromising information about the victim such as nude photographs, medical conditions or similar information. At that point they already own the victim and even if the victim tries to disengage, they will blackmail the victim.
Rod: You also said that once they hook them, they perfect a script that they follow to entice them. They know exactly the right words to use, the exact phrases to use to entice them. I would see a scam coming from a billion miles away, but most people are needy. They maybe a widow or widower which can be very devastated for these people. So how did you get involved with this project?
Yaacov: We did several trial projects over the last two years that involved visual intelligence. We combined our video analytics, with adaptive learning, which is the ability of the system to learn as it's solving a problem. Another big component, that previously was not available, was to use real time big data processing so we could use several open sourced frameworks to tie everything together. Using all those frameworks we figured out why not look at a pretty difficult problem to solve which is the erotic scams. The reason why the problem is so difficult to solve is because they operate overseas, and they are anonymous. We don't know who they are, we don't have any legal jurisdiction over them so we can't surveil them and we can't obtain a warrant, we can't kick down any doors and we can't intercept their phone calls because they use burner phones. It is a pretty tough nut to crack. What we wanted to do in this case study was to see if the AI technology can try and crack the nut. That was the basis for the initiative.
Rod: Where can our listeners go and read your research online.
Yaacov: Yes, you can go to apelbaum.wordpress.com or you can also do a search online for “Military Romantic Scam” and “Apelbaum” and you will find the report we prepared.
Rod: Would you describe what these AI Analytics do and how it pulls information automatically down to obtaining the license plates of the vehicles owned by perpetrators involved, their pictures, pictures at different locations, at different times with different individuals.
Yaacov: I will start with the kind of the foundations of how the AI applications work. A good analogy is unraveling a knitted sweater that your purchased knitted by hand from a single or multiple thread. What you do basically is find the edge of the thread and then unravel the knot and start pulling and as you pull you will eventually unravel the whole sweater. The whole sweater will be a single thread that lies on the ground. The AI works basically in the same way. As it unravels the sweater it catalogs everything along the way. For example, in the case of the sweater it looks for the knitting technique, the mistakes, patterns, the types of dye that was used for the sweater. What we basically did was create a ‘honey pot’. We created a fictitious individual, a middle-aged lady by the name of Olga Shmakova. We then created dating site profiles for her and computer-generated images for her. Everything is synthetic. She doesn't exist. We posted her profile online, as a divorced woman, a nurse in an emergency room who was very attractive and interesting. Within a few days we got a hit from an individual calling himself Captain Brandon with the U.S. Army as a Surgeon posted in Afghanistan. We created a rapid steamy romance with Captain Brandon. There a lot of promises of love and fidelity, they were even going to get married at a resort in Indonesia. At some point he asked for about twenty thousand dollars to get an early release from his engagement and that basically gave us an IP address. We had an IP address of Captain Brandon. That was the proverbial thread in the sweater. Once we had this IP address, we unleashed the AI on Brandon and that unraveled the entire network. We found were the scammer basically was located, who his neighbors were and what kind of computers he was using, what kind of images he has. We obtained the complete catalog of the scammer as Captain Brandon and his ecosystem. The AI is relentless, it doesn't sleep, it doesn't rest, and it gets better and better with every second that goes around. Once we figured out who Brandon was then his next friend in the network ran much faster. The total process took about thirty hours from beginning to end. However, a lot of it had to do with training the AI system and improving it. You must train the system initially to identify the mistakes and point it in the right direction. That basically is the life cycle.
Rod: I find it fascinating, that what you can do is expose the whole group of scammers to include their hierarchy. It is just like the mob with their payment scheme, pictures of them at banks, pictures of them with their new Mercedes, some of them are the photographs of when they first started living in a little hut and then next, they are living in a beautiful high-rise. Very intriguing story from Yaacov Apelbaum using amazing AI technology that does facial recognition and how they were able to bust this major African mafia scamming millions and billions of dollars through these Military Romance Predatory Appeals. Yaacov, could wrap up with some of the interesting details that your AI investigations uncovered.
Yaacov: What we discovered was that contrary to the common misconception these are not operations that somebody is running from the basement. These are well organized government sponsored activities that often have the support of local NGO's as well as local UN Forces used to transport money in and out of the country. We had several examples where they used UN helicopters and airplanes to move contraband in and out of the country. We know that the banks where the money is being deposited. We know that the local police cooperates with those networks receiving kickbacks providing them with protection. It is a well lubricated operation. Everybody has this mental picture of the Somali pirates you know kidnapping and hijacking passengers and ships on the high seas. This is the southeast African variance of the same thing.
Rod: Very interesting that your team was able to figure out what percentages that the first, second and third tier persons the boss, the big kingpin, what the government and police officers were paid. I just I found it all intriguing.
Jerry: Yaacov, given the heightened interest in the American Jewish community over synagogue and NGO security following the deadly attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway, Miami and elsewhere what capabilities does your firm have that might significantly enhance existing security CCTV networks?
Yaacov: One of the biggest problems with all the surveillance systems installed in various communities like community centers and synagogues and other locations is the low quality of the cameras that were installed. Those cameras were installed many years ago and even if they were installed recently, they would probably be lower end Chinese brands that really don't provide the high-quality imagery and video analytics to a large degree. If you have a high definition image you can do really some wonderful things with it. If we have low quality images or if the camera that is installed on the ceiling doesn't really see the face then you are somewhat limited by what you can do. One of the things that our technology does it optimizes the quality of the imagery from even low-end cameras. It also compensates for natural and some other environmental conditions. The technology can potentially upgrade significantly exiting surveillance installations without the necessity to really upgrade significantly.
Jerry: Yaacov, let's turn to your published stories regarding the family origin narrative of the controversial Minnesota Muslim U.S. representative Ilhan Omar. What did your analysis reveal about the Elmi family and father Nur’s privileged position in the Somali Marxist Islamist dictatorship of Siad Barre?
Yaacov: My interest in Congresswoman Omar was sparked by the fact that there was some ambiguity about very basic questions about her family name. I found most high-ranking politicians in Somalia don't have family name issues. That stimulated a case study project where we ran some of the analytics on Ms. Omar and other family members. That branched into several projects that included the family make up and information regarding their entry into the US as well as some of their enterprises. That was the genesis of the project. One of the things that we discovered when we ran our AI analytics was that there were some anomalies in their family name. Typically, Somali names follow a canon that goes by chosen name which is the name that is given to the child, the father’s name and the grandfathers name. The Omar family doesn't follow the Somali naming canon. Omar is a foreign name. That triggered further examination. One of the interesting things that we found was that a very large portion of the Elmi family tree was completely erased. It does not exist. It really shows up for the first time on the net in the early 1990s when they obtain Social Security numbers issued to them in Virginia. Before that they don’t seem to exist.
Jerry: What did your analysis reveal about how the Elmi family "escape narrative" from the overthrow of the Barre' regime in Somalia to Kenya?
Yaacov: What we found was based on AI analysis of her extensive video and many of Ilhan Omar's speeches. She talks a lot, she seems to be very vocal, tends to give many video and newspaper interviews. So, we had an extensive data base to analyze. One of the interesting things we found were multiple versions of the same story. Why is that interesting because typically they will have a pretty standard version of that story. There may be some minor variations. However, in her case the whole story of her escape from Mogadishu, the fact that the family lived in multiple places, the fact that the escape was triggered by different events contained multiple versions. Those versions could not be reconciled. For example, in one version she claimed that a hostile militia surrounded their armed compound. They had an armed compound in Mogadishu where they lived in. That the militia proceeded to try and break the door to the compound then they opened fire on the compound. In another version of the story she told to another source she claimed that her sister and aunt spoke to the armed militia through the window and convinced them to retreat peacefully. There are several not easily reconcilable versions in those stories. I'll give you another example. She claims that there was a party of twenty individuals, of her family that left the compound and then proceeded to the airport in Mogadishu which is on the seashore and they flew to Kenya. Now it is very difficult to reconcile her refugee story with the fact that twenty individuals without passports, without funds and yet had travel visas and a safe convoy to the airport at a time when the airport was controlled by rebel militias. The Elmi family had been heavily connected to the Barre regime. There is the whole issue of her living in Kenya. Ilhan or the Elmi family told us that they lived in a UN refugee camp. We know for a fact that they lived in Mombasa, a pretty affluent resort town. To live in a resort town, you require significant cash which again doesn't fit the refugee escape story.
Jerry: Turning to their entry to the United States, who sponsored the Elmi family, her father Nur, Ilhan and her sister, under the Family Reunification Resettlement program in the U.S.?
Yaacov: The entry to the U.S. itself is very suspicious because they entered the U.S. through the sponsorship of a Lutheran organization in Kenya that connected them with the Omar family. What proceeds after their entry to the U.S. seems to be a complete revamping of their background. They changed their names; they changed their identities and the whole family split into two parts. A UK-based branch which maintains the original family name called Elmi and the U.S. branch then adopt a new family name called Omar. What proceeds after the arrival to the U.S. is also a whole chain of very mysterious occurrences. They spent a very short time in Virginia and then they moved to another location. The father himself seems to be involved in several activities that doesn't really support their lifestyle. They developed a very exorbitant lifestyle. Wherever they lived they own or invest in significant properties. Which again raises the question of where those resources came from? They were not living on food stamps.
Jerry: Yaacov, in the middle part of the 1980s there was a sea change development. Russians dropped their support of dictator Barre in Somalia and flipped to support the Communist Degre regime in neighboring Ethiopia. Was that a point in time where the father Nur and his other associates might have been picked up by certain elements of the U.S?
Yaacov: The situation in Somalia wasn't so much as the Russians dropping Siad Barre', it was more Siad Barre looking for a new impressive date for the prom, meaning the US The African dictators as well as some of the Arabic country leadership realized very quickly that the only thing that the Russians could supply them would be with a Kalashnikov supply of bullets for every child that is born but not much beyond it. Not much in terms of economic opportunity, prestige and development. That is why you see a massive shift towards the West specifically towards the U.S. in Africa and Middle East. That is why Nasser of Egypt eventually decided to kick out the Russian advisors started courting the U.S. Siad Barre' decided that his interest lay more with the U.S. interests. The Russians obviously continued to support the revolutionary Communist militias and national movement that attempted to overthrow Barre. The interest of the West in Somalia never stopped. England always continued to support the Somali Independence Movement especially in Somaliland as well as some other areas. For example, we know for a fact that after the Civil War in 1992 over 200,000 Somali's came to the UK. Now we also know that at least fifty percent of the former Barre Somali cabinet members were given British citizenship. Fifty percent of the cabinet members probably even more so when you look at the individuals that live in the UK under British citizenship you find individuals like came to Canada and then to the U.S. The head of Barre’s Secret Service was working as a forklift operator in England moving frozen vegetables, we find his Deputy was employed as an auto parts salesman. find Barre’s Interior Minister worked in a grocery store. There were a significant Barre government leadership relocated to the UK. The same program was also potentially used in the U.S. That is why some of these Barre hierarchy figures went overseas from Somalia. Now why did they do that? The reason is probably because they wanted to have invested interests in the future leadership of the country. Everybody knew that Civil War would end and when the Civil War would end, those individuals would go back to Somalia and run the country. That happened in a lot of the instances, after a political settlement was concluded in 2016. They were just going back and reasserting themselves.
Rod: In your opinion should the U.S. investigation pursue Ms. Omar’s connections with CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas affiliate.
Yaacov: I think that the lower hanging fruits over here is not necessarily her political connections because those political connections are very difficult to investigate. Somebody like Ilhan Omar would always claim persecution. They are persecuting her because of her creed, religion and political affiliation. I think the lower hanging fruits over here are questions about what is the real name of the Omar family? How many siblings does the family have? Omar moves constantly from three to seven. Depending on who she speaks to she would say that they have either seven or five to three siblings. What is the relationship of the father? Who is the father of her children, who is her husband? We know for example that she's married suddenly to an individual who currently lives in the UK, our analytics identified him as her brother. We know for a fact that this is the brother that she has in the UK. Those are basic questions that I think should be investigated before we even jump the political arena.
Rod: I completely understand that. Are you of the view that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to look at the other detail on the names that you could find maybe some nefarious characters in the background involved with Somali rebels?
Yaacov: The problem with looking for Somali rebels in the US is that all Somalis at one point or another had some form of either resistance activity or they were part of the Barre regime just like Ilhan Omar’s father. Ilhan Omar’s father was certainly proud of the Barre government that held sway over the country. We know for example that the grandfather Baba Abukar studied in Italy and came back. He held the senior position of Director for Marine Transportation infrastructure. We also know that they lived in privileged circumstances for over fifty years with books, music and visits overseas. We know a lot of interesting information about the family. They were certainly not poor refugees. I think it would be interesting to find out the real identity of those individuals and who are they for good and bad.
Rod: You mentioned that much of her information has been scrubbed or intentionally deleted from the internet which makes more difficult to establish whether some of these stories are true or not correct?
Yaacov: Contrary to the common belief just because you delete something on a computer that the information doesn't go away. Unless you go through an extraordinary amount of effort to delete that information proceeds are always obtainable from back up servers, One of the interesting things that our search discovered about Ilhan Omar was a massive attempt from about 2015 on to delete, modify and alter a large quantity of internet records including a lot of social media documents. For example, they would delete a lot of images that show the family together in the UK. The family in the UK shows that there are really five siblings in the family, not three, not seven. We have two brothers and she has two sisters. We also found out that she was ex-post facto deleting official records in the Somali media from a trip to Somalia in 2016. For example, we have an incident where she visited the Somali President in his villa and some official photographs were taken by the Somali media service. In that visit her husband was identified as Ahmed Elmi which is her brother. We know that using our facial recognition AI analysis, the individual sitting next to her was Ahmed Hirsi, her current husband. Now what somebody on her behalf I did was they went to the site, deleted the pictures and purged them out of the server. We would like to recover those images. It clearly shows that she has almost a mystical ability to reach into foreign systems and alter those records.
Rod: It seems quite suspicious that one would go and alter records like that if she's not trying to hide something. Do you have any idea what's behind this?
Yaacov: If you told me that you went to her Facebook page and deleted images, I wouldn't certainly buy that. I would challenge her ability to go to the government run radio station in Mogadishu, access the content management server and delete them. It has multiple administrators. We know, for example, which administrator deleted the records. We also know the maintenance administrator is a clan member of hers and he is pursuing certain political aspirations that Omar has in Somalia. There is something over here that ties her to some official activity in Somalia. She's not doing it on her own. She is not sitting at the, left off in a hotel room clicking on a mouse deleting her images. Someone is doing it for her.
Rod: Yaacov, we really appreciate you taking time to be with us. I hope this isn't the last time that we have you on the show. You are an indispensable source of information. We look forward to hearing from you again. I want to direct our listeners to your website: apelbaum.wordpress.com. You really need to read some of his reports. Yaacov you did an amazing job on your research and we will chat with you later. Until next time at this same time we will see you next week and we say shalom.