BALTIMORE, Md. (WDBJ7/WWBT/AP) — Three men linked to a racially motivated violent extremist group have been arrested in Maryland and Delaware by FBI special agents.
File photo. (Photo: FBI)
The suspected white supremacists were believed to be on their way to a gun rights rally planned in Richmond for Monday, according to several national media outlets.
The FBI Baltimore Field Office confirmed that 33-year-old Brian Lemley, Jr. and 19-year-old William Garfield Bilbrough IV were arrested on Thursday and charged with transporting and harboring aliens. The 'alien' in question was 27-year-old Patrik Jordan Matthews, a Canadian national who was arrested on firearms charges.
Lemley faces a charge of transporting a machine gun and other firearms charges, including disposing of a firearm and ammunition to an alien unlawfully present in the United States.
A criminal complaint for the case charges Mathews with being an alien in possession and transportation of a firearm and ammunition to commit a felony.
The document indicates Lemley and Mathews used firearms parts to make a functioning machine gun, and allegedly tried to make a hallucinogenic drug as well.
Authorities said the complaint was filed Tuesday, but unsealed Thursday with the trio’s arrest.
According to the FBI, the three men are linked to "The Base," a racist extremist group. Lemley is from Elkton, Maryland, and Bilbrough is from Denton, Maryland.
According to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland, within “The Base’s" encrypted chatrooms, members have talked about “recruitment, creating a white ethno-state, committing acts of violence against minority communities, the organization’s military-style training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices.”
U.S. and Canadian authorities had been searching for Mathews after his truck was found in September near the border between the two countries, the Associated Press reports. He was last seen by family members in Beausejour, northeast of Winnipeg, on Aug. 24, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Canadian military’s intelligence unit was investigating Mathews for “possible racist extremist activities” for several months, according to the Canadian Department of National Defence.
On Aug. 30, Lemley and Bilbrough allegedly drove to Michigan to pick him up before all of them returned to Maryland.
Mathews has now been charged with being in the country illegally.
Lemley previously served as a Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army and Mathews was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve as of August 2019, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.
According to court documents, the three men drove from Virginia to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where Bilbrough resided. Lemley and Mathews continued on and eventually settled in Delaware.
“According to the affidavit, during December 2019, Lemley and Mathews used an upper receiver ordered by Lemley, as well as other firearms parts, to make a functioning assault rifle," a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland said. "Also in December, Lemley, Mathews, and Bilbrough allegedly attempted to manufacture a controlled substance, DMT, at Lemley and Mathews’s apartment. Furthermore, Lemley, Mathews, and Bilbrough discussed The Base’s activities and spoke about other members of the organization. Mathews also allegedly showed the assault rifle to Bilbrough, who examined the assault rifle and returned it to Mathews.”
In January 2020, documents state Lemley and Mathews bought about 1,650 rounds of 5.56mm and 6.5mm ammunition, went to a gun range in Maryland and shot the assault rifle, retrieved plate carriers and at least some of the purchased ammunition from Lemley’s previous home in Maryland.
According to the Associated Press, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an active investigation said the group was arrested on their way south to Richmond, where a rally is planned to protest pending gun control bills in the General Assembly.
Governor Ralph Northam declared a temporary State of Emergency for Richmond on Wednesday, banning all weapons from Capitol Square during the time in which the rally is planned.
Northam said law enforcement intelligence analysts identified credible threats of violence, as well as white nationalist rhetoric and out-of-state militia plans that appeared similar to plans that led up to the deadly 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
According to a press release from Northam's office, "credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020. Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection."
The three suspects were allegedly carrying firearms when they were arrested.
They are due in court in Greenbelt, Maryland 2:45 p.m. Thursday.