Four Georgia men who belonged to a “fringe militia group” were arrested by FBI agents on Tuesday and charged with plotting an attack against U.S. citizens and federal employees using the biological toxin ricin.
Authorities say 73-year-old Frederick Thomas of Cleveland; 67-year-old Dan Roberts; 65-year-old Ray H. Adams; and 68-year-old Samuel J. Crump, all of Toccoa, Ga. began meeting in March 2011 as part of a covert group that called itself, well, the “covert group.”
A confidential FBI source recorded a “clandestine meeting” that took place on St. Patrick’s Day of this year at Thomas’ house, where Thomas, Roberts and others allegedly discussed how to obtain castor beans to make ricin. Thomas, who allegedly led the meeting, mentioned a fictional novel he read online in which an anti-government group killed a large number of Justice Department attorneys.
The online novel in question is called “Absolved.” It’s written by Mike Vanderboegh, a right-wing blogger and former militia man who lives on government disability checks, has been featured on Fox News in relation to the Fast and Furious scandal, is on Rep. Darrell Issa’s press release distribution list and previously advocated on his blog “Sipsey Street Irregulars” for opponents of the health care law to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic members of Congress. In reaction to the arrests, Vanderboegh called those arrested a “geriatric ‘militia’” and said he was “skeptical” of the charges.
Thomas allegedly thought Vanderboegh’s fictional plot would work pretty well in real life.
“Now of course, that’s just fictional, but that’s a damn good idea,” Thomas allegedly said of Vanderboegh’s novel. An FBI affidavit said he described a scenario in which there would be a “line in the sand” that could result in the activation of militias. He allegedly claimed he compiled a “bucket list” of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media who would needed to be “taken out” to “make the country right again.”
Thomas allegedly said that there “is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that’s highly highly illegal. Murder. That’s fucking illegal, but it’s gotta be done,” Thomas allegedly said.
“When it comes time to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die,” Thomas allegedly said.
On a subsequent April 16 meeting, Thomas, Roberts, Adams and others talked about the need to take action against the federal government, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.
“I’d say the first ones that need to die is the ones in the government buildings,” Adams allegedly said. “When it comes down to it, I can kill somebody.”
Here’s how the plot unfolded from that point, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office:
From June through November 2011, Thomas and Roberts met with the undercover agent and negotiated the purchase of a silencer for a rifle and conversion parts to make a fully automatic rifle, as well as explosives. The complaints allege that Thomas confirmed to the agent that he planned to use the silencer that he was purchasing, and described how he would clean the rifle and use rubber gloves when he handled it so he wouldn’t leave his fingerprints on it during its use. Ultimately, Thomas agreed to purchase the silencer and conversion parts in exchange for providing the undercover agent with another gun owned by Thomas, while Thomas and Roberts allegedly agreed to split the $1,000 cost for the explosives. Thomas and Roberts later expressed concerns that the undercover agent was a “cop,” but wanted to go forward with the transaction anyway.
The complaints charge that during the investigation of Thomas and Roberts, Roberts described another individual named “Sammy” who, according to Roberts, had manufactured the biological toxin, ricin, and had access to the beans used to make ricin. During one of the group’s meetings in September, which was recorded by the confidential source, Crump arrived and said that he would like to make 10 pounds of ricin and disperse it in various United States cities, including Atlanta. Crump described a scenario for dispersing the ricin in Atlanta in which the toxin would be blown from a car traveling on the interstates. Crump allegedly also said that he possessed the ingredient used to make the toxin and cautioned the source about the dangers of handling it.
The complaints allege that in October 2011, Crump described to the source the process to manufacture ricin and advised that the materials should be purchased at different locations far from where he lived. Crump again discussed various methods of and locations to disperse ricin, and told the source that the toxin is deadly if the powder comes into contact with a person’s skin or lungs. During another meeting in October, Adams allegedly provided a sample to Crump of the beans used to manufacture ricin from a storage container of the beans contained at his residence in Stephens County, Georgia, and Crump in turn provided the sample to the source. During meetings on Oct. 29, 2011, Crump allegedly told the source that he was going to shell the beans that week, and Adams explained to the source how to manufacture ricin, showing the source a formula used to make ricin and identifying the ways he planned to obtain the ingredients to do so.
Adams used to work as a lab technician at the Department of Agriculture while Crump was a contractor who used to do maintenance for the Center for Disease Control. Thomas, according to a Red State profile which matches his profile, is a Vietnam vet who worked as an aerospace communications systems Engineer and held “top secret security clearance for nearly 50 years.” Roberts sued a number of local officials and a newspaper in federal court in relation to a 2004 “Southern Heritage” event he organized at a middle school that featured the Confederate flag. According to the lawsuit, he “co-sponsored and assisted in flag rallies organized by the Southern Rights Association [hereafter SRA]. He is widely known in the area as a flag supporter.”
While the FBI says it has plenty of recorded material implicating the defendants, there’s one issue in the affidavits that could provide fodder for defense attorneys. One of the cooperating sources, out of bond on pending felony state charges, gave “less than truthful” responses during an FBI polygraph test about the investigation of the militia group.