Two members of a new white supremacist group in Minnesota discussed killing former associates in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) and using homemade napalm in a truck bomb attack on the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, newly released court documents say.
Joseph Benjamin Thomas, 42, of Mendota Heights, Minn., and Samuel James Johnson, 31, of Austin, Minn., both former NSM members, were involved in the plot, an FBI affidavit says.
The FBI investigation of the pair began in January 2010 and involved the use of a tracking device secretly placed on Thomas’ car on Aug. 29, 2011, allowing agents to track his travels and identify potential co-conspirators. On Jan. 23 of this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled law enforcement officers must obtain search warrants to plant GPS tracking devices on suspects’ vehicles, the FBI sought and obtained court authorization to continue monitoring Thomas vehicle, the affidavit says.
Thomas and Johnson were arrested in April on federal drug and firearms charges and have not been charged with any terrorism-related crimes. Prior to the planned May 1 attack on the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, Minn., officials there were notified of the potential threat and increased security, according to a news report today by The Associated Press.
“Expressions of hate are the ones that motivated the alleged plotter,” Ana Luisa Fajer, the Mexican consul based in St. Paul told The AP. “These things exist, but we definitely think it’s an isolated voice here.”
The consulate was targeted after Thomas and Johnson, who were both members of the NSM, broke away from that neo-Nazi organization in April 2011 and started a new spin-off organization identified in other court documents as the Aryan Liberation Movement (ALM). The new group was to have “militant, funding, propaganda and political wings.” While the new leaders hoped to recruit other white supremacists to take part in “acts of violence against minority individuals or members of the United States government,” they also discussed “lone wolf” acts of terrorism, the affidavit says.
The group intended to fund its acquisition of weapons through the sale of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, other court documents say.
“In furtherance of disassociating from NSM, Thomas suggested ‘dispatching’ (defined by Thomas and Johnson as killing) existing members of NSM. Thomas suggested building pipe bombs for that purpose,” the FBI affidavit says.
The FBI, using an undercover agent and a confidential informant, monitored meetings where Thomas detailed a plan to steal a pickup truck, load it with one or more 55-gallon barrels filled with homemade napalm – a mixture of gas, oil and Styrofoam – and “drive the vehicle into the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, Minn., on the eve of May 1, 2012,” the affidavit said.
The conspirators hoped the mixture would spill before they ignited it with a road flare and fled, the document says.
Thomas chose May 1 “because it is a communist holiday and a day Hispanic immigrants walk out on their U.S. employers,” the affidavit says. He chose the Mexican Consulate “because of his white supremacy ideology and belief that the action will manifest national awareness and debate on immigration amnesty issues in advance of the 2012 United States presidential election,” the affidavit adds.
The undercover agent and informant “participated in multiple reconnaissance operations with Thomas to prepare for the plot, including planning meetings, target surveillance, scouting for storage property, unused or ‘clean’ cell phones and barrels,” it says.
Last December, Thomas was observed “conducting foot surveillance at the Mexican Consulate, including trying to open an exterior door and entering the building,” the affidavit adds.
Thomas and a “white supremacy associate,” identified in the court document as Jason Budnick, 21, also visited “two socially and politically left wing-oriented bookstores in an effort to identify targets for action,” it says. Thomas previously had discussed having a member of his group become a volunteer at the bookstore to obtain access to names and addresses of its customers. Thomas suggested how “simplistic” it would be to throw a Molotov cocktail at patrons in the bookstore.
In June 2011, after officers of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security visited Thomas’ home, apparently unaware of the FBI investigation, he “removed his computer hard drive and destroyed it in a microwave to eliminate any incriminating information,” the affidavit says. He also destroyed a notebook in which he kept license plate number of vehicles he observed with bumper stickers supporting President Obama.