Five people in the Fairbanks area were arrested Thursday by state and federal law enforcement on charges connected with an alleged plot to kidnap or kill state troopers and a Fairbanks judge, according to the Alaska State Troopers.
Francis "Schaeffer" Cox, Lonnie Vernon, Karen Vernon, Coleman Barney and Michael Anderson are accused of conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping, and arson, as well as weapons misconduct, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence, according to trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters in a written statement late Thursday.
An investigation "revealed extensive plans to kidnap or kill Alaska state troopers and a Fairbanks judge," the statement said. The plans included "extensive surveillance" on the homes of two Fairbanks troopers, the statement said.
"Investigation also revealed that extensive surveillance on troopers in the Fairbanks area had occurred, specifically on the locations of the homes for two Alaska state troopers," the statement said. "Furthermore, Cox et. al. had acquired a large cache of weapons in order to carry out attacks against their targeted victims. Some of the weapons known to be in the cache are prohibited by state or federal law."
U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said Lonnie Vernon, 55, was arrested for threatening to kill a federal judge. She said more information about federal charges would be released today Fairbanks Police Chief Loren Zager said the operation involved multiple police actions related to Fairbanks-area members of the "sovereign citizen" movement.
The operation was complete by evening, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.
Alaska State Troopers had earlier shut down a road near Cox's home, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The 26-year-old militia leader is a self-described "sovereign."
An arrest warrant for Cox was issued last month when he failed to show up for a court appearance on a weapons charge.
Cox, a vocal proponent of Americans' right to bear arms, had earlier vowed to defy what he described as an illegitimate and overbearing government.
The News-Miner reported a state trooper carrying a rifle blocked off an intersection near Cox's listed address Thursday afternoon. A neighbor who lives on the same road said it was not blocked as of 5 p.m.
Along with troopers and Fairbanks police, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service carried out the arrests, according to troopers.
An update posted on Cox's Facebook page at about 7:30 p.m. said: "Schaeffer has been taken into custody by the FBI. Please pray for his safety and the safety of his family."
The sovereign citizen movement is characterized by a rejection of U.S. laws and taxes. In general, participants believe that federal, state and local statutes and laws do not apply to them.
The investigation continues, troopers said.