State of Resistance
Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates
No one likes paying taxes. But tonight the FBI is reporting a troubling uptick in violence by some anti-tax groups going to extreme measures to protest government.
13 Investigates has found a local man linked to the groups suspected of threatening the nation's governors and more. And now, he's under watch from Indianapolis to Washington.
Mitchell Elias Daniels, Jr., State of Indiana, reads the 14th name in a bizarre, threatening letter obtained by 13 Investigates.
It was sent to all of the nation's governors in March ordering them to step down within three days or be removed. Gov. Daniels' office says it hasn't seen it.
But it's put federal authorities on alert to an extremist, anti-government group known as the Guardians of the Free Republics.
"The FBI worked in close coordination with the Governor and with our State Police. A bulletin was put out by the FBI in just the last several weeks to our law enforcement officers," said Greg Massa, the Supervisor of the FBI's Indianapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force
The letters arrived as government buildings and police officers came under seige.
A just released in-dash camera video shows the 16-year-old son of tax protester, Jerry Kane, jumping out of a minivan with an AK-47. The teen opens fire, gunning down two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas. Later, the father/son duo unload more rounds in a gunfight and attempted getaway. They're both killed during the shootout.
Months earlier, another tax protester, a 53-year-old software engineer crashes a small plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas.
13 Investigates has uncovered ties to the extremists in Central Indiana.
"Are you a member of the Guardians of the (Free) Republics?" we asked Walter Eugene Lunsford outside of a Marion County courtroom.
"I got to go check in," responded the 67-year-old from Hancock County.
Lunsford is reportedly part of the Guardians' secret inner circle. His name is on the Indiana signature page as one of the "jurors" sending the letters to the nation's governors. The Guardians, and the violent tax protesters are all part of the Sovereign Citizens Movement.
"Why did you send the letters to the governors telling them to get out of office?" 13 Investigates asked Lunsford.
" I can't talk to you, hon. I'll talk to you some other time," Lunsford said as he walked away.
13 Investigates began looking into Lunsford's background in July 2009, after a Marion County grand jury indicted him for stealing from the Federal Reserve Bank.
The US Treasury put out a nationwide fraud alert in the wake of his elaborate scheme.
Lunsford is accused of buying at least five vehicles, including a Grand Marquis, from Capitol City Ford using government routing numbers and running up $172,000 in car purchases.
"We filed civil suit against him," said Capitol City owner Bob Thomas. "So there's a judgement pending against him on the civil side too, that's bubbling its way through the courts."
"Those types of criminal actions can cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars," added the FBI's Massa.
Lunsford was already wanted on a 2007 gun charge. He was caught trying to carry a loaded .22-caliber revolver through a checkpoint at the Indianapolis Airport.
Turns out Lunsford had no Indiana license to carry it. Sovereigns don't believe they need one.
13 Investigates again asked him about the pending charges.
"At this stage in the game, having to be prosecuted for something as serious as stealing from the Federal Reserve?" 13 Investigates asked.
"Nice try," Lunsford said with a smile.
Both cases are now part of a upcoming trial.
But 13 Investigates has learned Lunsford is under watch, all the way to Washington, DC.
"He's a Sovereign Citizen," said Internet slueth J.J. MacNab.
MacNab tracks tax protesters all across the country from her suburban Washington office.
She's infiltrated groups using made up identities and testified before Congress. She says Sovereigns are extremists who don't believe they have to obey the law and are becoming more violent. The most infamous member is Terry Nichols.
Four months ago, Walter Lunsford grabbed her attention.
"He is moving himself into a leadership role in the Sovereign community in the tax protest community. That's why he's on my list," explained MacNab.
According to MacNab, Lunsford is "making a name" for himself with his bold internet break-in at the Federal Reserve.
"The Federal Reserve is seen as the number one target. The Federal Reserve is one of the organizations that they think is running the world," she said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers the Sovereign Movement more than just an anti-tax group. In fact, it's characterized as a threat under domestic terrorism.
"There are individuals within this fringe movement that have ties to white supremacists, to radical militia movements. And it's the intersection of those groups that are of concern," Massa told 13 Investigates.
"Five years ago I would not have pegged them as a particularly violent group. Now I do," added MacNab.
MacNab says the recent letters from the Guardians are particularly troublesome. She says Lunsford served as the Indiana Coordinator.
"Apparently they've been holding secret grand jury meetings," she said going to the root of the concerns.
Their targets, government servants.
13 Investigates asked why the group targets police officers and judges and Governors?
MacNab says based on her research, "They target the people they come in contact with. We're in a perfect storm. They did not like the result of the 2008 election. They do not like the health care bill."
But Lunsford defended the Guardians.
In a phone call with 13 Investigates, he says his criminal cases are not connected to the group, and denies the letters to Governors were veiled threats.
13 Investigates asked him why he signed the Guardian's "warrant."
"Well, it was my duty," Lunsford said. "It's not a bunch of radicals out here that's trying to take over the government. We're not trying to do that at all," he insisted.
"So you don't support the violence?" 13 Investigates followed up.
"Absolutely not. Nobody in this movement supports the violence," said Lunsford.
MacNab said while other anti-tax groups seek to influence the political landscape with votes, the Sovereigns are electing financial scams and now growing violence.
"In my world, where I go online and I track these people, I assume that every threat is serious," said MacNab.
Walter Lunsford's criminal trial is set for August. The U.S. Attorney says no federal charges were filed because the government recouped it's money from the car dealership.
The FBI says Lunsford and the other Indiana names listed as possible jurors for those threatening letters sent to Governors could also come under scrutiny.
Anyone with information about planned attacks of violence are asked to call the FBI at 639-3301.