Government protestor sentenced to home detention
Sandra Chapman/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - A government protestor, facing up to 10 years in prison on fraud and theft charges for using Federal Reserve accounts to purchase cars, won't spend another night behind bars.
Instead, Walter Eugene Lunsford was sentenced to home detention and it turns out he could hold the key to future prosecutions.
The 70-year-old Lunsford broke down in court, admitting through tears he made mistakes by illegally using routing numbers from the Federal Reserve to buy cars. Convicted of eight counts of fraud and theft, a Marion County judge ordered him to the confines of his home.
"Two-year sentence, that has all been suspended. He will be serving it on probation in informal home detention, which means he doesn't have the freedom to come and go as he chooses," explained Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Hutchison.
"Sounded to me like justice," said a Lunsford supporter outside of court, who refused to give his name.
Lunsford served as the Indiana coordinator for the Sovereign Citizens Movement and a group that sent letters to the nation's governors, ordering them to leave office. Anti-government sympathizers count Monday's ruling a victory, even though Lunsford must help state and federal authorities with ongoing investigations.
"He should be able to give us their information and whether or not they've used this routing number or other routing numbers," Hutchison told 13 Investigates. "There is the chance that he can provide us significant information and it might be some of the friends that sat there and supported, he might have to turn them over to us."
Lunsford's scheme came unraveled after 14 of his friends met him at Capitol City Ford, looking to purchase cars on the taxpayers dime. The FBI later wired up a sales manager, who talked with Lunsford about stealing from the Federal Reserve.
JJ McNabb is an Internet sleuth based in Washington, who has infiltrated Sovereign groups.
"Many of them believe that when you're born, the government sets up 'super secret' account under your social security number," said McNabb.
An uptick in violence by some protesters, including the shooting of an Arkansas police officer and the crashing of a plane into an IRS building in Texas, have prompted FBI warnings to local law enforcement.
"They can hold their anti-government beliefs and exercise their first amendment rights, but it's when they go beyond that, when they start to violate federal law, it's when they start advocating violence, when there's a threat, or force of violence," that the FBI gets involved, explained Joint Terrorism Task Force Supervisor Greg Massa.
Lunsford denies supporting radical behavior.
"Ask yourself 'what is it about asking your government to stay within the Constitution' a terrorist act?," Lunsford told 13 Investigates just before his trial two weeks ago.
In the end, it was age and letters from his own children condemning his actions that prompted a judge to send him to lockdown at home.
Lunsford still faces weapons charges for trying to get a loaded gun through the airport. He can only leave home to go to court, church and for medical care. If he gets a job, prosecutors will argue that he pays restitution to Capitol City Ford.