Dramatic news out of Atlanta yesterday, as federal prosecutors announced the arrest of members of a "fringe militia group" charged with conspiring to carry out an array of terrorist attacks on government officials and the public--including the potential use of the biotoxin ricin. The criminal complaints and underyling FBI affidavits are posted here, here, here, and here. And here is what the government had to say about it all in yesterday's press release:
ATLANTA – Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, Ga.; Dan Roberts, 67, of Toccoa, Ga.; Ray H. Adams, 65, of Toccoa; and Samuel J. Crump, 68, of Toccoa, were arrested today relating to plans to obtain an unregistered explosive device and silencer and to manufacture the biological toxin ricin for use in attacks against other U.S. citizens and government personnel and officials.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates said, “These defendants, who are alleged to be part of a fringe militia group, are charged with planning attacks against their own fellow citizens and government. To carry out their agenda, two of the defendants allegedly purchased purported explosives and a silencer, while the other two defendants took steps to attempt to produce a deadly biological toxin. While many are focused on the threat posed by international violent extremists, this case demonstrates that we must also remain vigilant in protecting our country from citizens within our own borders who threaten our safety and security.”
FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin said of today’s arrests, “The FBI will act swiftly within its authority when any group or individual seeks to advance its rhetoric or ideology through force or violence. In this matter, the FBI’s Atlanta Division Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) was well positioned to address this investigation and to prevent harm to the general public.”
According to the criminal complaints, federal search warrants and documents in the public record, Thomas, Roberts, Crump, Adams and others were members of a militia organization and began participating in clandestine meetings of a fringe “covert” operations team starting in approximately March 2011. During these meetings, the complaints charge that the men discussed multiple criminal activities, ranging from murder; theft; manufacturing and using toxic agents; and assassinations in an effort to undermine federal and state government and to advance their interests.
In March and April 2011, Thomas, Roberts, Adams and others attended meetings where participants discussed targeting various government officials, including employees of federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service. These meetings also were monitored by FBI agents through the attendance of a confidential source, who recorded the meetings and provided the information to the FBI.
During the meetings, the complaints allege that Thomas, Roberts and others discussed the need to obtain unregistered silencers and explosive devices for use in attacks against federal government buildings and employees, as well as against local police. Thomas, Roberts and others also discussed the use of the biological toxin that can kill individuals in small doses. The participants acknowledged that these actions would constitute murder but reasoned that the actions were necessary in accordance with their ideology.
In May and June 2011, Thomas and Roberts met with an undercover agent purporting to be a seller of unregistered silencers and explosive devices. According to the complaints, Thomas and Roberts allegedly agreed to purchase a silencer and an unregistered explosive device and discussed using the silencers and explosive devices in attacks against federal buildings. In furtherance of this plan, Thomas conducted surveillance of federal buildings in Atlanta and discussed with the source the possibility of attacking the federal buildings using silencers and explosive devices, as punishment for what Thomas deemed to be “treasonous” activities. Thomas also allegedly stated that he believed that these actions needed to be undertaken against both federal and state government officials, and advised that the group would need a great deal of explosives to accomplish its mission.
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.
FBI agents arrested all four defendants today without incident and executed search warrants at the residences of the four defendants. The defendants are expected to make an initial appearance on the charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan S. Cole tomorrow.
The information provided by the source and the undercover agent allowed the agents to disrupt the defendants’ plans before they were in position to place citizens in danger of attacks using the weapons, explosives, or a biological toxin.
Members of the public are reminded that the criminal complaints contain only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the JTTF, which includes agents of the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Assistance in this case has been provided by law enforcement agencies from Habersham County and Stephens County, Ga., and the District Attorney’s Office for the Mountain Judicial Circuit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Brown is prosecuting the case.