Ahead of gun rally, FBI arrests accused members of 'violent' white supremacy group from Delaware, Md
Isabel Hughes - Delaware Online
Three Delaware and Maryland men who federal agents say are members of a "violent" white supremacy group were arrested by the FBI on Thursday on gun and immigration charges, days ahead of a pro-gun rally officials say they were planning to attend in Richmond, Virginia.
Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Maryland, who has also lived in Newark; William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Maryland; and Patrik Jordan Mathews, 27, a Canadian national who currently lives in Newark, appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon to face the charges.
The appearance comes two days after they were charged with transporting and harboring illegal immigrants, transporting a machine gun, "disposing of a firearm and ammunition to an alien unlawfully present in the United States," and transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony.
Mathews was also charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
According to the criminal complaint, which was unsealed following the Thursday arrests in Maryland and Delaware, in The Base’s encrypted chat rooms the men discussed recruitment, creating a white ethno-state, committing violence against minority communities — including African-Americans and Jews — and the organization's "military-style training camps."
They also discussed ways to make explosives, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Both Lemley and Mathews have military experience: Lemley previously served as a "cavalry scout" in the U.S. Army, and as of August 2019, Mathews, who was in the U.S. illegally, was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve.
The Winnipeg Free Press reported Mathews is a trained explosives expert with the Reserve. It also reported that Mathews had posted neo-Nazi propaganda throughout Winnipeg as part of recruitment for The Base, which a Free Press reporter attempted to infiltrate.
That reporter wrote, following an investigation, that The Base is a "secretive network of highly radicalized neo-Nazis that is eagerly preparing for a race war. In group chats, members make anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and they idolize serial killers and mass murderers as 'the saints.'"
In an affidavit filed in conjunction with Tuesday's criminal complaint against the men, federal prosecutors said that on Aug. 19, Mathews illegally crossed from Canada into the U.S. near the Manitoba/Minnesota border.
That same day, Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided Mathews' home, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. He was not charged at the time, though a "number of firearms" were seized.
About a week later, on Aug. 30, Lemley and Bilbrough drove from Maryland to Michigan to pick Mathews up, and the three returned to Maryland on Aug. 31, the affidavit says.
In November, the trio drove from Virginia to Maryland, where Bilbrough lives. Lemley and Mathews then continued on to Elkton and then to Delaware, where the two have lived since.
A month later, in December, Lemley and Mathews successfully made an assault rifle at their apartment while also trying to make a hallucinogenic drug DMT, the complaint said.
Earlier this month, Lemley and Mathews bought about 1,650 rounds of 5.56 mm and 6.5 mm ammunition and drove from Delaware to a gun range in Maryland, where they shot the assault rifle, court documents said.
At one point when they got back to Delaware, Lemley reportedly said to Mathews, "Oh oops, it looks like I accidentally made a machine gun," the complaint says. He then told Mathews to "Go ahead and take the lower (receiver) off, give it to me. I'm gonna stow it until next week, just in case the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) shows up tomorrow."
Mathews retorted: "We got other problems" if the ATF shows up, the court documents say.
A law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press the three men were believed to be planning to attend the pro-gun rally planned for Monday in Richmond.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and banned all types of weapons from the gun rally, citing reports that armed militia groups were planning to attend.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gunowners of America filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction specifically against the ban on firearms. A judge upheld the ban, citing U.S. Supreme Court and other court rulings that found the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited.
The men briefly appeared in court Thursday afternoon in Greenbelt, Maryland. A federal magistrate judge agreed to keep all three men jailed pending detention hearings, scheduled for Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom showed the judge a photograph of Bilbrough participating in a military-style training camp with other members of The Base and said Bilbrough has also talked about traveling to Ukraine to fight alongside "nationalists."
"He has personally compared The Base favorably to al-Qaida," Windom said.
As federal agents moved in to arrest Lemley and Matthews on Thursday, the men smashed cellphones and tried to flush the pieces down a toilet, the prosecutor said.
U.S. and Canadian authorities had been searching for Mathews after his truck was found in September near the border between the two countries, according to The Associated Press.
He was last seen by family members in Beausejour, northeast of Winnipeg, on Aug. 24, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. 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.
The Anti-Defamation League said in April 2019 members of The Base, as well as other white supremacy groups, have posted in their chat rooms about accelerationism, or "a term white supremacists have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it."
Roman Wolf, who the ADL said is The Base’s "self-described communications specialist and recruiter," tweeted about it before his account was suspended.
"Acceleration is necessary for recruiting & organizing — To say it's somehow counterproductive to those efforts is to misjudge the nature of 21st century Whites," he tweeted.
The Anti-Defamation League said members of The Base and other white supremacist groups have frequently posted online messages advocating for "accelerationism," a fringe philosophy in which far-right extremists "have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it."
Reporters Brandon Holveck and Nick Perez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.
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