Two Minnesota men who talked of starting a new white supremacy group, to be called the “Aryan Liberation Movement,” have been arrested by terrorism task force agents on federal firearms and drug charges after a three-year undercover investigation into alleged plans to commit violence against minorities and the government.
Samuel James Johnson, 31, of Austin, Minn., and Joseph Benjamin Thomas, 42, of Mendota Heights, Minn., were arrested last week.
Thomas, a former Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). leader, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and four counts of distribution of the drug between Feb. 1 and March 13.
Johnson, who has a criminal record in Minnesota going back to 1999, was indicted on four counts of being an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm and two counts of being an armed career criminal in possession of ammunition. If convicted, Johnson faces a minimum, mandatory term of 15 years in prison under provisions of the federal armed career criminal law.
Although the case ended with firearms and drug charges, it didn’t start that way, according to details provided in a nine-page search warrant affidavit filed by a special agents assigned to the FBI’s Minneapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force.
In August 2010, the task force began an investigation of Johnson, who had involvement with other white supremacists as Minnesota leader of the NSM. As the investigation progressed, the FBI learned Johnson “was planning to recruit and train other white supremacists with a goal of committing acts of violence against the United States government and minority individuals,” the affidavit says.
“In furtherance of this plan, Johnson started his own organization that he entitled the ‘Aryan Liberation Movement’ (ALM)” after leaving the NSM, the affidavit says.
It further alleges that Johnson, who had a felony record, “actively scouted for a training compound in both Illinois and Minnesota” while he continued illegally acquiring firearms.
Thomas, meanwhile, first came to the attention of the FBI in early 2010 when he hosted NSM meetings and discussed forming the ALM with Johnson, the affidavit says. “One of ALM’s goals was to conduct attacks against the United States government and minority individuals.”
By May 2011, an FBI agent working in an undercover capacity had infiltrated the group and purchased an AP9 semi-automatic handgun, a pistol-grip shotgun, a laser sight and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from Thomas, the court document says. The following month, the undercover agent learned Thomas had attempted to buy explosives to “conduct attacks on left-wing individuals,” who aren’t identified in the court document.
As the investigation continued, the undercover agent learned in July 2011 that Thomas had purchased $700 worth of cocaine and was involved in a marijuana and cocaine drug sales operation. By February of this year, the drug operation had expanded to included methamphetamine, documented with the undercover agent’s 28-gram purchase of meth from Thomas.
At some point, agents got court authorization to attach a hidden global positioning system tracking device on Thomas’ vehicle and used that to track him to his drug supplier, the affidavit says.
The affidavit also details three other undercover purchases of meth in February and March. During one of those meetings, Thomas told the agent “about a stockpile of firearms in north Minnesota that had been stolen.” Some of those weapons were turned over to federal authorities by another man, but it’s not clear from the court document if all were recovered.