FBI Arrests West Virginia militia members
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Return FBI Arrests West Virginia militia members on charges they plotted to place explosives near the FBI facility in Clarksburg, which the bureau recently opened as its fingerprint records center.
The Investigation: Step-by-Step Details of Alleged Plot
Detention hearings for 6 of 7 set
ELKINS _ Detention hearings for six of the seven individuals associated with the Mountaineer Militia and charged in the plot to blow up Clarksburg's FBI Fingerprint facility have been set, according to the office of United States Attorney Northern District William D. Wilmoth.
Fawn Thomas, the media coordinator for the office, said three of the hearings will be held on Thursday (Oct. 17) in Elkins Federal Court. Two hearings will take place in Cleveland, while the other will be held at the federal courthouse in Huntington.
During the detention hearings, the government will present their reasons as to why those allegedly involved need to be held. The defense will present an opposing view, Thomas said.
In Elkins, the detention hearing for Floyd Raymond "Ray" Looker is set for 9 a.m. Thursday. His hearing will be in front of United States Magistrate Judge David L. Core.
Looker, a Stonewood resident and the commanding general of the Mountaineer Militia, was listed in four criminal complaints. The 56-year-old allegedly sold blueprints of the FBI facility to an undercover agent for $50,000.
James R. "Rich" Rogers will have his hearing set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, while Jack Arland Phillips' hearing has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Both men will have their hearings in front of Core.
Rogers, 40, of Jane Lew, was charged in two criminal complaints. The Clarksburg Fire Department lieutenant allegedly provided the photographs of the FBI facility's blueprints to Looker.
The 57-year-old Phillips, of Fairmont, was charged for dealing with explosive materials.
"Those are the schedules right now in Elkins," Thomas said. "They may consolidate them to be a little bit closer."
James M. "J.J." Johnson and Imam A. Lewis have detention hearings set for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday (Oct. 16) in Cleveland. The pair will have their court appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Bartunek.
Johnson, 48, and Lewis, 26, both of Ohio, were charged with interstate transportation of explosive material from Ohio to West Virginia.
Edward F. "Fred" Moore's hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 17) in Huntington. Moore will have his case heard by U.S. Magistrate Judge Maurice G. Taylor.
Like Phillips, the 52-year-old Moore, a resident of Wayne County, was charged with dealing with explosives.
According to Thomas, a date has not been set for Terrell P. Coon. The 46-year-old Coon is a resident of Waynesburg, Pa., and was arrested on a charge pertaining to the interstate transportation of explosive materials from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.
All prisoners will be protected and transported to and from the federal courthouses by the United States Marshals Service, Thomas said.
Updated October 16, 1996
Unity Gathering Promotes Positive Image for City
Since Friday's arrests of seven milita members allegedly involved in a plot to bomb the FBI center, the national press has been swarming around Clarksburg, casting a dubious shadow over the city. In an attempt to stem the tide of negative publicity and to showcase the real Clarksburg, city officials held a "unity gathering" yesterday on the plaza in front of the Harrison County Courthouse.
City Manager Percy C. Ashcraft said that the reaction to the arrests has been different for everyone, but that the community in general has experienced "embarassment, shock and fear." By bringing area residents together, city officials hoped that the community would remember Clarksburg's positive qualities and be able to move on.
Mayor Tom Flynn said that Clarksburg is made up of "law-abidding, hard-working citizens," and added that "it's a shame that a few have caste a negative light on our city and area."
Flynn urged citizens to not be deterred by the recent events. "Residents need to keep a positive attitude about our city and our future," he said.
Senator Robert C. Byrd and Congressman Alan Mollohan also gave encouragement, in the form of letters which were read at the rally.
"The negative media attention spawned by these recent events is certainly disheartening," wrote Byrd. "However, the unity that you are displaying this evening is important in refuting this negativity."
Mollohan thanked residents for showing support for the FBI center, a cornerstone of the area's economic growth.
"As everyone here knows, the FBI and the people of our state enjoy an excellent working relationship and share a mutual respect," he wrote. "It would be unfortunate if the events of last Friday were to draw attention away from this successful partnership."
About 100 people turned out for the rally, including local American Legion, and VFW, city police and firemen, and area clergy. Pastor David Kates saluted all those who turned out, and lead the crowd in a cheer of "Clarksburg, stand tall!" "Help us to stand tall amid all the rumors and all the scandals that might be in the air," Kates said in a closing prayer.
Councilman James Hunt, who organized the event, said that he spoke to Mark Swartz, a councilman in Oklahoma City, the site of last year's federal building bombing. Sometime in the near future Swartz will come to Clarksburg and speak at an area school, Hunt said. Also, Hunt announced a plan for Clarksburg to raise $10,000 to help Oklahoma City cope with its tragedy. "I felt that he (Swartz) was someone this community could reach out to with a helping hand, and he was extremely touched by our offer," he said.
Following the event, Ashcraft said that "for an impromptu ceremony you could tell that everyone spoke from the heart and that the sentiment was to pull people together.
"We want to isolate the event and reassure people that Clarksburg is still one of the best places to live," he added.
Updated October 16, 1996
Rally planned to defuse
negative publicity from
militia arrests last week
Trying to defuse negative publicity from last week's militia arrests, Clarksburg city leaders are planning a public "unity celebration" late this afternoon on the plaza of the Harrison County Courthouse.
Although plans for the rally were still not complete this morning, the purpose of the 5:45 p.m. gathering is clear: to show support for the FBI and boost hometown pride.
In announcing the rally at a Monday morning press conference, City Manager Percy C. Ashcraft II also expressed support for the city's firefighters.
The city's 42 firefighers and area residents have been victimized by the actions of the Mountaineer Militia, he said.
The seven militia members and associates arrested Friday, including city Fire Dept. Lt. James R. "Rich" Rogers, hurt the city's and region's reputation, Ashcraft said.
"Their actions have left all of us victims to the misguided behavior of certain individuals who tried to choose a different set of rules by which our society lives by," he said.
Saying city residents were sharing a common reaction of fear to news that the militia allegedly was conspiring to sell blueprints about the FBI's new $200 million computerized criminal identification center to terrorists, Ashcraft likened the situation to last year's April 19 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City.
"These events have brought national attention to Clarksburg in a manner which is uninvited and unjust. We now must begin to mend the hurt. ... This city, its employees and its fine citizens should not be judged by one isolated incident."
While Lt. Rogers is presumed innocent, his alleged copying of construction blueprints of the new facility for use by the militia constitute a "betrayal" of his fellow firefighters, Ashcraft said.
Rogers may be suspended from his city job this week, the city manager said today.
City lawyers are still reviewing what type of disciplinary action the city can take in line with the city's fire civil service rules.
While city employees are keeping Rogers' family in their thoughts and prayers, Ashcraft said Monday the lieutenant's alleged actions had brought grief to his co-workers.
"The men and women of the department are simply devastated. The actual death of one of their own members would likely not bring more grief than what has transpired," he said.
Fire Chief Bill Spencer and the department were "betrayed by Lt. Rogers. He was in a responsible position and he broke the public trust," the city manager said.
Building plans and blueprints filed with the city fire department are not available for general public review, Ashcraft and the chief said.
Architects, contractors, engineers and others connected to building projects have been granted access on a nearly routine basis before last Friday's arrests, the chief said.
The system has worked well for decades, the officials said, adding that a review is now under way to tighten security on the documents.
Spencer and Ashcraft said Rogers, who was identified by the FBI as the Harrison County commander of the militia, apparently kept his politics and his membership in the militia to himself.
Councilman James C. Hunt said, "no community deserves what has been thrust upon us."
Six other men, including Floyd Raymond Looker, 56, of Stonewood, the self-styled commanding general of the militia, were arrested last Friday morning. FBI agents and U.S. Attorney William D. Wilmoth said the group illegally conspired to obtain explosives and also to sell sensitive blueprints and photos of the FBI's new $200 million criminial identification center to a terrorist group.
The terrorist group was fictitious, created by an undercover FBI agent during a 16-month investigation of the militia.
The city was "blessed to have been selected as the site of the FBI's new center" for its Criminal Justice Information Services
headquarters, Hunt said.
FBI officials at the massive complex located just off I-79 on 1,000-wooded acres have assured city officials that they are not rethinking plans to expand in the future, he and Ashcraft said.
Other City Council members attending the press conference were Frank Marino and Louis J. Iquinto. Also in attendance were Pastor David Kates, veteran newsman and community leader Harry Berman and Robert Caplan, director of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce.
Berman gave a short but emotional speech, citing the area's many good residents and recent achievements. He noted the countywide new school building program, the $30 million expansion of the airport's main runway and other signs of progress.
Updated October 15, 1996
FBI agents fan out to question
other members of militia
The FBI's investigation into a West Virginia militia group that allegedly tried to sell sensitive blueprints of its new $200 million criminal identification center in Clarksburg to terrorists has moved into a different phase, with agents fanning out to question other militia members and witnesses to the Mountaineer Militia's activities.
The investigation may spread to militia groups in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania, a security source told the Telegram today.
U.S. Attorney William D. Wilmoth would only say today that "the investigation is continuing."
Friday morning's arrest of Floyd Raymond Looker, the self-described commanding general of the Mountaineer Militia, and six other men ended a 16-month undercover investigation of Looker and the group, Wilmoth said.
"That wrapped up the covert phase of the operation. Once we gave him the $50,000, we didn't want the $50,000 to walk," the federal prosecutor in Wheeling said.
Looker was arrested at 6:57 a.m. in Morgantown after an undercover FBI agent paid him $50,000 for a file containing copies of construction blueprints and photographs of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems headquarters in Clarksburg. The undercover agent had been posing as a broker or middleman for an unidentified Middle East terrorist group.
"Now we can go public with the investigation and questioning of witnesses, talking to anybody we believe may have information that would be helpful," Wilmoth said.
Detention hearings for Looker, 56, of 210 Maple Ave., Stonewood, and three others arrested in north central West Virginia and western Pennyslvania in a series of coordinated raids early Friday morning will be held in Clarksburg's federal courthouse later this week, Wilmoth said.
A U.S. magistrate will preside at detention hearings for Looker and Clarksburg Fire Department Lt. James R. "Rich" Rogers, 40, of Box 196-0, Jane Lew, Terrell P. Coon, 46, of RD No. 4, Box 264-A, Waynesburg, Pa., and Jack Arland Phillips, 57, of 712 Lemley St., Fairmont.
Edward F. Moore, 52, of 5500 Lynn Creek Road, Lavalette, Wayne County, will also appear before a federal magistrate in Huntington. Imam A. Lewis, 26, of 2232 East 90th St., Cleveland, and James M. "J.J." Johnson, 48, of 5560 Harrison Ave., Maple Heights, Ohio, will also have detention hearings in Cleveland.
Because courts were closed today for the Columbus Day holiday and the need to mesh the schedules of lawyers appointed for the seven, Wilmoth said he could not yet announce the time and date for the hearings.
The investigation may spread to neighboring militias in Ohio and Pennsylvania, one top police source said today.
"I wouldn't be surprised. These groups appear to be very closely knit together or at least in regular communication with one another," he said.
Updated October 15, 1996
The following are by the Associated Press
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Author says: Threat of smaller militia groups growing
(AP)_Authorities need to do more to crack down on small patriot groups like the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia that continue to proliferate, an author says.
Large militias have been scattered following the Oklahoma City bombing but the threat remains from smaller groups, said Morris Dees, author of "Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat."
"How dangerous are they? I think that they're capable of causing a lot of damage," Dees said.
Seven men with ties to the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia were arrested Friday in a plot to blow up the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division complex near Clarksburg.
The suspects have been ordered held pending detention hearings later this week in West Virginia and Ohio.
Court documents indicate 26 county commanders from the Mountaineer Militia and the Pennsylvania Militia met on a 600-acre farm in Lewis County in June 1995 to discuss their concerns: security for their units, establishment of food and weapons caches, and identification of targets in the event of a confrontation with the government.
During that meeting, Mountaineer Militia commanding general Floyd "Ray" Looker identified the FBI complex as one of three targets and recruited a firefighter to get copies of blueprints on file in a locked room at the Clarksburg Fire Department, an FBI affidavit said.
Fire Lt. James R. Rogers, a militia commander, gained access to the locked room and photographed the blueprints, the affidavit said. His 35 photos, when pieced together, provided a complete picture of the facility and layout of underground utilities and the underground computer center, it said.
Court documents also indicated that Looker conducted meetings at Shoney's and Eat 'n Park, among other places, with two men capable of producing plastic explosives and bombs from ammonium nitrate. One of them caused windows to shake on a farm house while demonstrating a device.
A bomb made from ammonium nitrate and fuel destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500. Two men with links to militia groups were charged in the bombing.
What proved to be the Mountaineer Militia's undoing was a member who turned into an FBI informant two months after the Oklahoma City bombing, authorities said.
And federal agents, who had recorded conversations and tracked militia movements, moved in Friday when Looker tried to sell a package including copies of FBI center blueprints to an undercover FBI agent, authorities said.
Arrested along with Looker, of Stonewood, Harrison County, and Rogers, of Jane Lew, Lewis County, were two men identified as explosives experts: Fred Moore, 52, of Lavalette, Wayne County, and Jack Arland Phillips, 57, of Fairmont, Marion County; authorities said.
The other three men who were charged were Terrell P. Coon, 46, of Waynesburg, Pa., James M. Johnson, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio, and Imam A. Lewis, 26, of Cleveland.
Dees, chief legal counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. said authorities tend to shrug off extremist behavior when they should be doing more to track patriot groups.
"They just think these guys are a bunch of buffoons out there and that they see black helicopters and believe there are foreign troops on our soil," he said. "They do not take them seriously, and that's a mistake."
There are about 900 different patriot groups across the country, said Dees, who started tracking militia groups because of their ties to violent white supremacists.
Dees' non-profit law center asked attorneys general in every state a month after the Oklahoma City bombing to begin identifying militias and taking steps toward outlawing them.
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. responded
that there was little he could do unless there is illegal activity.
U.S. Attorney William D. Wilmoth said Sunday any illegal activity by militias is taken seriously by law enforcement agencies.
Wilmoth stressed that individuals are not targeted because of their views. "But anyone, militiamen or not, who resorts to violence or is planning (violence) will be targeted," he said.
Updated October 15, 1996
Shock Still Resonates
(AP)_ The leader of a militia group linked to a plot to destroy three
federal buildings often wore camouflage clothing, while neighbors
of another suspect grew accustomed to explosions at his Wayne
Mountaineer Militia commanding general Floyd "Ray" Looker
of Stonewood, Harrison County
and Fred Moore, 52, of Lavalette,
an explosives expert, were among
seven people arrested Friday in
the alleged plot.
Looker was a pleasant tenant,
landlord Jacqueline Jordan said
"As far as having any trouble
with him, I didn't," she said.
"Neighbors said he would march
around in his camouflage clothing
and would wear a green beret, but
that's about it."
Looker paid his rent on time,
"As long as they're not trying to
get me to join the militia group
then I'm fine with them as tenants," she said of Looker and his
Meanwhile, Ronald Fry, who
lives a short walk to Moore, a colonel with the militia group, said
he heard explosions come from
his closest neighbor's house every
"It rattled the windows once in
awhile," Fry said. "Out here it's a
rural area and you don't pay
much attention to firearms. I just
assumed it was his hobby."
Clarksburg firefighter, Lt.
James R. Rogers, 40, also was
among those accused of plotting
to destroy three federal buildings
in West Virginia, including the
FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg. Authorities have refused to
name the other facilities.
Rogers is accused of providing
photos of construction blueprints
for the intent of committing a destructive act, the FBI said. The
fire department keeps blueprints
of area buildings in case of fires.
Sharon Allman, who lives about
five miles from Rogers, said she
didn't know him well but was angered and scared.
"We were shocked," she said.
"Our daughter works there at the
(FBI) center. She's really upset
about the whole thing."
Employees at the fire department were told not to comment on
their co-worker, according to a
firefighter who refused to give his
Also arrested were: Jack Arland Phillips, 57, of Fairmont,
Marion County; Terrell P. Coon,
46, of Waynesburg, Pa.; James
M. Johnson, 48, of Maple Heights,
Ohio; and Imam A. Lewis, 26, of
James Watters, a neighbor of
Johnson's, said he knew the man's
parents, but rarely saw their son.
He said Johnson was quiet and
The arrests were the topic of
conversation at the Stylorama
Beauty Salon in Clarksburg.
"They're so disappointed and
very scared," hairdresser Kathleen Taggart said of her customers. "Everyone's scared it would
be another Oklahoma," she said of
the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah building, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500 in 1995.
Authorities have said the cases
are not connected.
Updated October 14, 1996
Disenchanted Militia Member
Tipped off FBI, Prosecutor Says
(AP)_ A trusted associate of the leader of the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia became an informant and recorded members conspiring to destroy an FBI complex and two other federal targets, court records alleged.
The informant continued to supply information even after a suspicious militia colonel ordered him to remove his shirt to be sure he was not wired with a microphone during one meeting, the records said.
FBI agents were providing security for the informant at an undisclosed location Saturday as seven suspects remained in federal custody pending detention hearings, U.S. Attorney William D. Wilmoth said.
The seven were arrested Friday on charges including conspiring to make bombs, transporting explosives across state lines and conspiring to place explosives near the FBI's Criminal Justice
Information Services Division.
The informant indicated at
least one of the men believed the FBI complex contained a clandestine operation that might be a
command center when the government turned against the people under the "New World Order," the documents said.
Wilmoth said the alleged plot was not linked to anti-government groups in other states.
"I don't want it to appear to be some nationwide conspiracy or anything more grave than the charging documents show. As far as we could tell, it was localized," Wilmoth said.
The Criminal Justice Information Services Division complex center in Clarksburg houses fingerprint records the FBI has collected from police departments nationwide.
The $200 million center eventually will use computer programs to convert fingerprints into electronic images, enabling the FBI to perform fingerprint checks in a matter of hours in stead of weeks.
The undercover investigation was launched 16 months ago after a disenchanted militia member approached federal authorities and offered his assistance, Wilmoth said Saturday.
The informant provided crucial information about the men, including Fred Moore, 52, of Lavalette, Wayne County, who was familiar with producing bombs from ammonium nitrate, and chemical engineer Jack Arland Phillips, 57, of Fairmont, who said he could produce plastic explosives, court documents said.
Moore boasted that he was working on a fuel-air bomb that could devastate an area the size of two football fields and also indicated he had produced a grenade-like device, the documents said.
An affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent J.C. Raffety indicated that Moore demonstrated how to make bombs once during militia training exercises on a 600-acre farm in Lewis County.
The mixture he concocted exploded with a deafening roar and left a crater 2 feet wide in the ground.
Ronald Fry, Moore's closest neighbor, said he became accustomed to hearing explosions.
"The first time I was worried. But out here, if one man wants to shoot, that's his business. It was
pretty regular on Saturdays. I didn't know what he was doing," Fry said.
Both Moore and Phillips were directed by Mountain Militia commanding general Floyd "Ray" Looker of Stonewood to make explosives for sale to a broker who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, documents said.
On Aug. 25, the day President Clinton visited Huntington, Moore expressed his concerns to the in formant, Phillips and Looker that federal authorities were aware of their activity.
During the meeting, the informant was told to remove his shirt to prove there were no recording devices, the affidavit said.
FBI Special Agent Thomas G. Noschese of Pittsburgh said the informant would have been in jeopardy if the conspirators knew he was cooperating with investigators.
Wilmoth said the informant was protected by FBI agents but was not in the witness protection program.
Federal agents prepared to
make their move after Looker agreed to provide photos of FBI
center blueprints in exchange for $50,000 from the undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a representative of an unnamed Middle East terrorist organization, court
About 100 federal agents moved
in on Friday after Looker at tempted to deliver the blueprints,
which were obtained from a Clarksburg firefighter, investigators said.
The blueprints, kept in the event of a fire, provided information on the center's electrical
lines, utilities and underground facilities. Authorities have not
named the two other alleged targets.
The firefighter, Lt. James Rogers of Jane Lew, was arrested along with Looker, Moore and Phillips.
The other three men who were
charged were Terrell P. Coon, 46, of Waynesburg, Pa., James M.
Johnson, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio, and Imam A. Lewis, 26, of
It is not surprising to see a militia group thrive in the state whose
mascot is a Mountaineer, the very symbol of the rugged individual
ist, said Lawrence Nichols, a sociology professor at West Virginia
Nichols noted that the state has
an unemployment rate topping 10 percent in more than half of its 55
counties and that there is a traditional resentment toward outside
"You put some of these things
together, and you have the basis for this type of activity," he said
Saturday. "We're talking about a small group, an extreme fringe."
Looker has never said how many militia members there are in West Virginia, and federal authorities declined to provide an estimate. Nichols estimated there were fewer than 50 members.
Updated October 14, 1996
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