GAINESVILLE, GA—Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, Georgia; and Dan Roberts, 67, of Toccoa, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to conspiring to obtain an unregistered explosive device and silencer.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “These defendants are members of a fringe militia group who, in planning attacks on innocent citizens and their own government, conducted surveillance of government buildings and purchased what they believed were explosives and a silencer for use in those attacks. This case demonstrates that we must remain vigilant in protecting our country from citizens within our own borders who threaten our safety and security.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office said, “The FBI is tasked with protecting its citizens from various threats, both foreign and domestic, and must deal with these threats proactively. In doing so, however, the FBI, along with its numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, respects and operates within the rule of law. Today’s guilty pleas represent our collective and successful efforts in dismantling an articulated threat against the public and its government.”
According to U.S. Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court:
Defendants Thomas and Roberts were members of a known militia organization who sought to form what they referred to as a “covert group” that would plan and execute armed attacks on government buildings and federal employees including law enforcement agents. The firearms the defendants sought to obtain were to be used in those attacks.
In March and April 2011, the defendants met with each other and others to discuss the formation of the self-described “covert group,” its purposes, and their need to acquire weapons, ammunition, food, and survival gear.
Thomas discussed overt and covert operations for the group, stating that he had compiled what he called a “Bucket List,” which is a list of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders, and members of the media that needed to be “taken out” to “make the country right again.” Thomas further described the need for the group to acquire more weapons, ammunition, food, and survival gear and the need to establish a silent means of performing assassinations. To this end, Thomas suggested silencers for handguns, stating, “In order to do what we want to do, take out the right people, we have to have some silent means of doing it. That means suppressors on handguns.” Thomas talked about his Bucket List of people he thought should be killed. Thomas further said that he thought they could “fight off a SWAT team” and stated that “I’ve been to war, and I’ve taken life before, and I can do it again.”
Thomas also made the following statements during the meetings:
■“The right people have to be taken down and taken down soon.”
■“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 f***ing illegal, but it’s gotta be done.”
■“When it comes time to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die.”
Thomas wished for the group to start taking action on some of their previously discussed plans, including a number of assassinations on various government officials. Thomas explained that he intended to model their actions on the plot of an online novel called “Absolved.” The plot of “Absolved” involves small groups of citizens attacking U.S. federal law enforcement representatives and federal judges. Thomas said that the covert group should conduct a number of assassinations on various government officials, and he particularly expressed a desire to kill Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees. He also provided those in attendance at the meeting a list of IRS office addresses.
During the same meeting, Thomas also made the following statements:
■“Civilian government operatives is who we’re going to be shooting at: IRS, ATF, FBI, and the cops.”
■“Who is the primary topics, targets? DOJ. Everybody in DOJ. That includes judges, ATF, IRS, and the hierarchy thereof.”
■“I could shoot ATF and IRS all day long.”
On April 30, 2011, Thomas met with an individual he believed could obtain weapons for the covert group, including explosives. This individual is an active duty military employee who reported the activities of the covert group to military personnel after growing concerned about a potential attack. During a recorded meeting with this individual, Thomas provided a handwritten list of 28 items including firearms, silencers, and explosives and asked the individual to obtain them for the group. Thomas told the individual that the covert group was looking for ways to conduct assassinations.
On May 24, 2011, Thomas and a confidential source drove from north Georgia to Atlanta and conducted surveillance of the ATF and IRS buildings in Atlanta. During recorded conversations in conjunction with the surveillance of these buildings, Thomas discussed weapons the covert group wanted to acquire illegally, plans for additional surveillance inside the buildings, and methods of attacking the buildings with explosives.
On June 9, 2011, defendants Thomas and Roberts met with an undercover agent to discuss the purchase of silencers and explosives. Both defendants stated that they had specific targets in mind, and Thomas informed the undercover agent that they had already conducted surveillance of the targets. Thomas explained that the covert group was planning to carry out the actions of the main characters from the book “Absolved” and, like the main character in the book, Thomas considered himself to be expendable at his age and was prepared to die if necessary. At one point during the meeting, Thomas also said, “We know what we wanna do. We know how to do it. But we need (unintelligible) prepared to do it, so that’s what we’re doing now...Making the preparations, getting what we need so that when we go about doing it, we are equipped. Don’t know when that’s gonna be; within a year, I’m sure.”
Defendants Thomas and Roberts also discussed acquiring trinitrotoluene (TNT) to make their own destructive device. Thomas proposed trading homemade bomb detonators and unregistered handguns he owned for the weapons and silencers he sought to obtain from the undercover agent and stated that Roberts was compiling a list of items that Roberts was willing to trade. When the undercover agent sent Thomas an e-mail with videos of controlled explosions of the type of explosives that he purportedly would sell, Thomas sent a response e-mail stating, “Wonderful. Imagine. I used to do that for a living, and never thought to put any aside. H***uva’n effect for so small a package! Interested? You bet. I’ll show this to Cobra [Defendant Roberts] and then we’ll work out what we might be able to swap for some. Thanks!”
On September 20, 2011, Thomas and Roberts met with the undercover agent and agreed to purchase an explosive device for $1,000, with the cost being split between Thomas, Robertsm and a person known to the government. Thomas also agreed to buy a silencer and conversion parts to make a rifle fully automatic in exchange for a gun that he would trade to the agent. Thomas and the undercover agent agreed to conduct the transaction in about 30 days from the date of their meeting. During a recorded conversation immediately before the meeting with the undercover agent, Thomas expressed his interest in the silencer because, “I’d love it for the M1A. If you’re gonna use it as a sniper rifle and actually kill somebody, which I intend to do, your best bet is to clean the weapon, ultra clean, load it with five rounds, put the suppressor on, wipe it down clean, then put the rubber gloves on so when you pick it up, you ain’t leavin’ prints.”
On October 21, 2011, Thomas and Roberts met with a confidential source to discuss the purchase of explosives from the undercover agent and Roberts’ portion of the purchase price. Before the arrival of Thomas, Roberts expressed a concern that the undercover agent might be a “cop,” but Roberts nonetheless said he planned to go through with the deal and that he would be with Thomas at the transaction.
On November 1, 2011, Thomas and Roberts met with the undercover agent, gave him a sum of U.S. currency and a firearm, and took possession of a silencer for an M4 assault rifle, conversion parts to make the rifle fully automatic, what they believed were C-4 plastic explosives. During the meeting, the undercover agent explained to Thomas and Roberts how to operate the explosives. During the recorded transaction, Thomas said, “Now, I’m gonna want two more suppressors, one for a pistol and one for a rifle,” and Roberts said, “The way my finances, finances are, I got, uh, it comes and goes, I’m only gonna be able to take one [silencer] at a time, probably.” Agents then arrested both defendants.
At the time of his arrest, Thomas had in his possession written instructions for detonating a destructive device.
Thomas and Roberts were indicted in November 2011 with conspiring to possess an explosive device and an unregistered silencer and a substantive count of possessing an unregistered silencer. The defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess an explosive device and unregistered silencer. They could receive a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing will be set at a later date. The defendants remain in custody.
This case is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes agents of the FBI, Federal Protective Service, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Brown is prosecuting the case.