In a cryptic development to one of the highest-profile cold-case investigations in the United States, the FBI raised the reward for information on the murder of federal prosecutor Tom Wales to $1.5 million on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The second highest official at the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, flew out to Seattle to attend the announcement, further underlining the importance of the probe to federal authorities.
In addition to raising the reward, investigators announced that they now believe that a small circle of people conspired to kill Wales and that his murderer may have been a hired hand, Seattle Times reported.
Wales left a potentially lucrative career in New York to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Seattle. He prosecuted fraud cases and was well liked when he was killed while at his computer in the basement of his home in 2011, one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Any attack on a law-enforcement officer is an attack on the entire justice system,” said Rosenstein during a news conference held in a room named after Wales at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to Seattle Times.
“I intend to leave no stone unturned in the search for the killer who murdered Tom Wales,” Rosenstein added. “We will continue to pursue this case for as long as it takes to achieve justice.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended a similar conference last year and Eric Holder, the attorney general under Barack Obama, did so on the tenth anniversary of the killing, The Atlantic reported.
After pursuing 2,345 investigative avenues in the case, a single lead suspect remains on the FBI’s radar—an airline pilot who was prosecuted by Wales. The pilot was never charged with a crime and has asserted his innocence for years.
The scope of the investigation is vast, with some investigators having dedicated the equivalent of an entire career to the inquiry. The case has generated 51,000 investigative documents, three times that generated in the Enron case, a giant accounting-fraud scandal that brought down a massive corporation.
“Progress is being made,” said Seattle’s FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Jay Tabb Jr., adding that the case has a “special purpose.”
Asked why raising the reward might bring a breakthrough in the case, Tabb said, “Another way to look at it is, people talk. People aren’t good at keeping secrets. Other people might have talked about it in those past seven years.”
Investigators are asking people who have a tip to call Seattle FBI at 206-622-0460, or to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can also be mailed to the FBI at 1110 Third Ave., Seattle, WA., 98101.