The way authorities tell it, the Richmond, Virginia, area white supremacists got together at one of their homes in September with a sinister meeting agenda.
They were supposed to discuss, authorities alleged in an affidavit, “shooting or bombing the occupants of black churches and Jewish synagogues” and “conducting acts of violence against persons of the Jewish faith.”
The FBI, though, was watching the men and soon connected them with an undercover agent. Authorities say they brokered a deal with the agent, who was posing as an arms dealer, to buy weapons, and they were arrested earlier this week on charges that they conspired to possess guns after having been convicted of a felony.
According to affidavits in the case, the relatively modest charges foiled a nefarious plot. The men, according to the affidavits, planned a reign of terror – shooting or bombing religious institutions, robbing jewelers and armored cars and doing some unspecified harm to gun store owners in Virginia and Oklahoma.
One of the men said in a conversation apparently recorded by authorities that he wanted to use the proceeds to “purchase land, stockpile weapons and train for the coming race war.”
Robert Doyle, 34, of Chester, Virginia, and Ronald Chaney, 34, of Highland Springs, Virginia, were charged with gun conspiracy counts in the case, and the FBI alleged in an affidavit the men are part of a “white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru [neo-pagan] faith.” A third man – Charles Halderman, 30, of Richmond – was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, although it is unclear to what extent, if any, authorities think that race or religion motivated him.
The arrests were reported previously by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Attorneys for all three men did not return messages seeking comment. A man who identified himself as Chaney’s brother noted that Chaney was not charged explicitly with trying to harm people at places of worship for their race or religion.
“I do not believe that my brother would harm anyone for their race or religion in or around a place of worship,” the man said. “I have not heard him espouse any of those views; however, I’ve had very limited contact with him.”
The man declined to give his name, saying he did not want to be quoted. “I have a family of my own, and I do not want to be a part of this.” A relative of Doyle declined to comment, and relatives of Halderman could not be reached.
Although it is unclear how federal authorities were first tipped off, FBI Special Agent James Rudisill alleged in an affidavit that the bureau received information in late September that Doyle and others were going to meet at Doyle’s house to discuss shooting or bombing churches and synagogues, among other violent topics. The FBI conducted surveillance on the meeting and identified Chaney’s vehicle as being there, according to the affidavit.
The next month, the two men met with the undercover FBI agent posing as an arms dealer, and “placed an order for an automatic weapon, explosives, and a pistol with a silencer,” Rudisill wrote.
Chaney, at least, was suspicious of the undercover agent, saying on some type of recording before the meeting that he feared the FBI was trying to “infiltrate” his group, according to the affidavit. Afterward, though, his concerns were apparently allayed. Doyle was caught on another recording saying Chaney “got a good feeling on the dude,” according to the affidavit.
Doyle twice texted the undercover agent to confirm the purchase, and on Sunday, agents moved to arrest him and Chaney – who were both convicted felons and thus prohibited from purchasing firearms, according to the affidavit. Agents also searched Doyle’s house and recovered .45 caliber ammunition from a backpack in his vehicle, the affidavit says.
Halderman was arrested on the same day, though his alleged role in the conspiracy is less clear. He was caught on some type of recording seeming to talk about robbing a jeweler, according to an FBI affidavit.
All three men are scheduled to appear in federal court in Richmond later this week.