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Six arrested on federal charge of conspiracy to kidnap the governor

Six arrested on federal charge of conspiracy to kidnap the governor

Seven more arrested on state charges related to the plan

Adam Fox, of Grand Rapids,
was one of several arrested
in a plot to kidnap
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A Grand Rapids man appears to be the ringleader in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced last week that six men have been arrested and charged federally with conspiring to kidnap the Governor. According to a complaint filed Tuesday, October 6, 2020, those charged are Adam Fox, of Grand Rapids, MI; Barry Croft, of Delaware; Ty Garbin, of Hartland Township, MI; Kaleb Franks, of Waterford, MI; Daniel Harris, of Lake Orion, MI; and Brandon Caserta, of Canton, MI. The six allegedly conspired to kidnap the Governor from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan.

Under federal law, each faces any term of years up to life in prison if convicted. 

U.S. Attorney Birge said that “Federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans, particularly when they target our duly elected leaders.”

The federal complaint in this case alleges that the FBI began an investigation earlier this year after becoming aware through social media that a group of individuals was discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components. Through confidential sources, undercover agents, and clandestine recordings, law enforcement learned particular individuals were planning to kidnap the Governor and acting in furtherance of that plan. This group used operational security measures, including communicating by encrypted messaging platforms and used code words and phrases in an attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement. 

On two occasions, members of the alleged conspiracy conducted coordinated surveillance on the Governor’s vacation home. Fox and Croft discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the vacation home and Fox even inspected the underside of an M-31 highway bridge for places to seat an explosive, according to the complaint. Among other activities, the complaint alleges Fox purchased a taser for use in the kidnapping and that the group successfully detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped with shrapnel to test its anti-personnel capabilities. The FBI and Michigan State Police executed arrests as multiple conspirators met to pool funds for explosives and exchange tactical gear.

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” stated U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”

“These alleged extremists undertook a plot to kidnap a sitting governor,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Josh P. Hauxhurst. “Whenever extremists move into the realm of actually planning violent acts, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force stands ready to identify, disrupt and dismantle their operations, preventing them from following through on those plans.”

The investigation is ongoing. Agents of the Detroit Field Office of the FBI and other members of their Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Michigan State Police, are conducting the investigation. FBI Agents and JTTF members in the Baltimore Field Office of the FBI, which covers Delaware, are also involved. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan is prosecuting the federal charges. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Michigan and Delaware have assisted.

Based on information developed in the investigation, State of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the simultaneous arrest of seven other individuals on state charges of providing material support of terroristic activities and of possessing a firearm in the course of that offense.

The suspects, now under arrest, are alleged to have called on the groups’ members to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them; made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse; and engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Through the efforts of more than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials  – including experts from outside of Michigan – officers executed a series of search warrants and arrest warrants in more than a dozen cities around the state, including, Belleville, Cadillac, Canton, Charlotte, Clarkston, Grand Rapids, Luther, Munith, Orion Township, Ovid, Portage, Shelby Township and Waterford.  

“Michigan law enforcement officers are united in our commitment to rooting out terrorism in any form and we will take swift action against anyone seeking to cause violence or harm in our state,” stated Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. “Michigan residents can assist us in this mission by speaking up if you see suspicious activity or become aware of someone making threats. No tip is too small; don’t wait until it’s too late. Tips can be submitted confidentially 24/7 online at our website.” 

In total, 19 state felony charges were filed by the Attorney General against seven individuals known to be members of the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen or associates of Wolverine Watchmen. 

The following individuals were charged by Attorney General Nessel as part of the joint law enforcement effort: 

Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford, was arrested in Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday and the Attorney General’s office is working to extradite him to Michigan for arraignment on charges in Jackson County. No court dates have been set. Bellar is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; Gang membership – a 20-year felony, which may be served as a consecutive sentence; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville, was arraigned in Antrim County. Bond was set at $250,000. Preliminary hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. A probable cause conference has not be scheduled. Fix is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and  Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac – Arraigned Thursday in Antrim County, with bond set at $250,000, 10 percent. His probable cause conference is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 14, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Molitor is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell, and William Null, 38, of Shelbyville – Both were arraigned Thursday in Antrim County, with cash bond set at $250,000 each. Both are scheduled for a probable cause conference at 1 p.m. Oct. 14, and preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Both defendants are each charged with one count of: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 26, both of Munith – Both were arraigned Thursday in Jackson County, with a cash bond set at $10 million each. Both are scheduled for a probable cause conference at 1 p.m. Oct. 16 and a preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 21. Both Musico and Munith are charged with:

One count each of threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; One count each of gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served as a consecutive sentence; One count each of providing material support for terrorist acts; and One count each for carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively. 

More than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials  – including experts from outside of Michigan – were involved in the operation. 

 “I’d like to personally thank the law enforcement officers who participated in yesterday’s arrests and those who have assisted with this investigation throughout the past several months,” Attorney General Nessel said. “Your heroic efforts have left the people of this state safer and the instruments of our government stronger. I know that I speak on behalf of Michiganders everywhere when I say we are forever grateful to you for your actions.” 

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