EXCLUSIVE: FBI Informant Tells All, Pt 2
Bill Fulton, one of two undercover FBI informants in the recent Alaska Militia Trial I covered, continued his in-depth interview with me. After recounting the circumstances of his association with US Senate candidate Joe Miller, and the controversial arrest of a local reporter by his security company at a Miller campaign event (while working undercover), we were ready to begin talking about the Cox investigation and the trial.
This portion of the interview discusses how Fulton began his company Drop Zone, his association with the FBI, and the beginning of the investigation of Cox, and other members of the militia.
Devon: So, how did you start Drop Zone? Was it for the purpose of this investigation?
Fulton: Oh, no. Me and some of my military buddies got this security company going. And then we decide, you know – when we were in the Army, we always went to a surplus store to buy things. GI Joe’s in Anchorage shafted the troops, price-wise. They put it at like $20 below what it would cost them if they’d lost it and had to pay the statement of charges, and pay their own way. And there wasn’t really anybody in town selling high-end tactical equipment to replace the lowest bidder stuff we were issued. So we decide to open a retail store. And, of course, we named it Drop Zone, like our security company. And as soon as we open it, because I’d had a relationship with the people from the Criminal Investigations Division of the United States Army when I was in the Army, I immediately contact them because I know we’re going to be receiving stolen equipment. It happens if you have a surplus store, and I also know that we’re going to be party to a lot of things they’re going to be interested in. And the last thing I want to do is enable criminal activity.
So we start working with CID as soon as the shop opens. And we start to notice, almost immediately, that these militia guys are coming in. And these right-wing people – not just militia, Mormons too. So these right-wing types start coming in – and like, scary ones. And we’re like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And Schaeffer Cox sends people down, and I’m thinking there’s stuff going on here, this is not right. And they all, of course, assume that I’m with them. They just assume it because we’ve got guns, and we do security, and I guess they didn’t notice the black guy we had working for us, so they assumed we were racist. I don’t know. Whatever it was, they just assumed we were in their clique. And some scary guys are coming in so, I’m getting a little freaked out. So, we start reporting a little of the military related activities from the militia to our military sources. And then one day, one of these crazy guys we have a business relationship with, brought in something that made me concerned for the safety of the troops. My red flag went up. So, I brought the information to CID, and I was like, “Guys, I think we may have a troop safety issue here.” And they couldn’t do anything with it because it was regarding a civilian. Posse Comitatus. We can’t go mess with a civilian.
But then they said, “This is the FBI’s forte. This is what they do.” And so I took it to the FBI, and that’s how my relationship with the FBI started. It had nothing to do with Schaeffer Cox.
Devon: I don’t think a lot of people realize that.
Throughout my relationship with the FBI, and I thought this was kind of funny, and nobody picked up on this, is that Schaeffer Cox was an obscenely small part of what we were doing for the FBI.
Devon: So, was it about the incident you just mentioned before, or were there other things going on?
Fulton: There were other people. But if we found a threat… And also, you’ve got to figure that even though my guys didn’t know, we were involved in reporting all this, what we were doing in fugitive recovery was investigative work. We did investigations, and tracked people down, arrested them and took them to jail. So I had, at any given time, 20 trained investigators. So, if I thought something was odd, I could put one of them on it, they wouldn’t know the difference, and then if it did turn out to be a problem, I could talk to the FBI about it, hand off the information. And these guys were walking into our shop talking about “Hey, I’m going to armor my car up, and that way if I get pulled over, I can kill the guy who pulls me over because he has no right to.” And I’m like, “Oh, that car right there, with that license plate number. Yeah. You’re from where again? Oh, that’s great. Here, let me give you $5 off that camouflage jacket. Come on back any time you want another deal.”
So, it really worked out to where we had a continuous stream of good quality information. It’s not like we were digging for it from these people. These people were coming in and willfully handing it to us on a silver platter.
Devon: So, you get this information, an you go to the FBI with it. Then what?
Fulton: So, I go to the FBI, we start talking, they figure out I’m not a criminal, and then they also figure out that I pretty much know everybody that they have any interest in, when it comes to right wing domestic terrorism. Because they all come in to my shop and tell me exactly what they want to do, which is good for them. So, we form this relationship where if I see something that’s wrong…and we documented it probably better than most of their sources would, because we were involved in investigations all the time. And I would forward it to them. And then, months after our relationship started was when they heard I was going up to Fairbanks, and we were having our weekly conversation about what was going on, and they’re like, “Hey, you know Schaeffer Cox, right? Can you see what he’s doing up there?”
[And so began the investigation of Schaeffer Cox, founder of not only the Alaska Peacemakers militia, but the Interior Alaska Conservative Coalition, the Second Amendment Task Force, and the Liberty Bell Network. Fulton, having no idea what to expect, brought his family with him and headed north to a fundraiser in Fairbanks. Never having worked with the FBI before, this was his first time in the field.
Alaska is one of the few states in the country which has a law called "single party consent." It means that if two parties are having a conversation, it is legal for one of them to record the conversation without telling the other. So Fulton wired himself, and went to meet Cox at a hotel in Fairbanks called Pike's Landing. But Fulton said he had no idea what he was about to hear.
At this point, Fulton was the only FBI infiltrator in the case. JR Olson, a drug smuggler who had also run afoul of the law by installing septic systems without a license, came into the investigation later in order to reduce his own sentence for crimes he'd committed.]
Fulton: We did not know that Cox had gone that far down. The FBI was working on other things for a while, and Cox came up, and they knew I had an association with him, so they asked, “Hey, can you talk to Schaeffer.” I was so unconcerned, I brought my wife and kids. I thought I’d take them to Frontierland while we were there, because that’s what everyone did.
Devon: So, describe this meeting. What was his demeanor?
Fulton: I’d talked to him like a week earlier, told him I was coming up, and asked him if he wanted to have coffee, or a drink, and chat. So, we start talking and he’s like, ‘I’ve gone underground. I’m going house to house. Do you have your security with you?’ And at this point I’m thinking I don’t even want him to know my family is there.
That’s when the crazy train started. So, I called my FBI handler – she’s in DC. They had no idea this was going on either. So, she’s like, ‘OK, calm down. Just go through with the meeting, see what’s going on, and call me when you’re done.’
[By this time, Schaeffer Cox had had his first run in with the law for an offense having nothing to do with the militia, guns, or conspiracy plots. He'd been accused of a domestic violence charge for assaulting his wife while driving from Fairbanks to Anchorage. At that time, his 3-year old son Seth was in the back seat. This had put into effect a series of events that would feed into his growing fear of the government. As a matter of course, when a domestic violence charge is called in, the state sends an agent from Child Protective Services to investigate, and interview children in the household. In trial, it was revealed that Cox had a deep fear that the government was planning to take his child away from him, and in the course of the inevitable intervention, when he resisted, there would likely be a shootout resulting in the death of himself, his wife and his son.]
Fulton: So the meeting comes, and Schaeffer Cox and Les Zerbe (his second in command in the militia) showed up. They started talking about how they’re going to take his kid. And he says, “I’m not going to let it happen. If they take my kid, my militia is going to kill them and I may not be able to stop it. It was very Schaeffer Cox – I’m going to threaten you, then say I’m not threatening you, then I’m going to threaten you again.
And he asks me if I can help him serve some warrants. And I’m asking him, ‘Sure. Who are we serving the warrants on?’ And he starts telling me judges, and police officers, and court employees. And this turns out to be for a common law court.
[Cox and many of his followers are members of the sovereign citizens movement. Believers feel that the government of the United States has become corrupted from its purpose, and is now a corporation rather than the government that the founders intended. Hence, they feel that institutions of the government, like the court system, are by their nature fraudulent. After formally renouncing their United States citizenship, they believe that they are "free men on the land" with rights given from God, and that this group has the right and responsibility to handle legal matters using common law courts. Cox was ultimately tried by a jury, many of whom were known to him, in a common law court proceeding held at the Denny's restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska. At the trial, he was found innocent. At this meeting, Cox wanted Fulton to serve warrants to those he felt were fraudulently representing themselves as having jurisdiction over himself, in order to put them on trial using a common law court.]
Devon: Now, were you familiar with all this – common law courts, and the sovereign citizen movement, or were you just flying by the seat of your pants?
Fulton: As I’m agreeing with them and talking to them, I’m hearing all this crazy stuff. And they’re talking to me like I know what it is, and I have no idea what it is. And as I’m learning from them what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m thinking, “This is so insane.” And I have no idea what the sovereign citizen thing is at this point. So, I have to just BS my way through it. And Cox is like, “We have this grand jury we formed.” And at this point I only know about one kind of grand jury – and it’s not the friends and family Denny’s Grand Slam plan.
And then Schaeffer is saying he doesn’t have the manpower. And I’m like, ‘I thought you said you had 3,500 guys!’
Devon: So where did that number come from. Because I remember when he spoke at a militia gathering in Montana, he said he had 3,500 armed men. That was part of what got him on the FBI’s radar in the first place if I remember correctly.
Fulton: Well, he was counting on the IACC, and the Second Amendment Task force, and other militias in the state. So, I put him on the spot, and I said, ‘How many guys do you have that are ready?’ And he tells me about 20. And I’m like, ‘Really, dude? You want to start a frickin revolution with 20 guys?’ But I start ticking off numbers of all these groups, and I’m thinking, ‘We have a huge problem here.’ And I’m starting to panic, and I’m screaming in the back of my mind at this point, but I’m saying, “Yeah, we’ll help you with the warrants. So what do you want us to do with them?” And he says, bring them to the grand jury, and I ask, “What are you going to do with them?” And he says,”We’re either going to fine them, or hang them, or both.”
And it was clear that he and his guys had talked about this. Les Zerbe is sitting there, shaking his head yes. One of the scariest things about it was that they were forming a plan. So, I said, ‘Look, get your plan together, and we’ll talk about it tomorrow when we get the other groups together you said you were going to use.’
And Schaeffer’s like, ‘You know the government is not going to sit back and do nothing. This is going to start the Revolution. And we know where they live. We’re going to board up the windows, and set the house on fire with everyone in it. This is what happens in war.’
Devon: What was going through your mind at this point?
Fulton: Look, I’m used to dealing with all kinds of people, but I’m not used to dealing with pure sociopathic evil. It was scary.
And the thing that was so weird to me at the time was that it was all about him. Schaeffer was willing to literally start a war as long as it was all about Schaeffer. It was nothing to do with the Constitution, nothing to do with all the stuff he spewed at everybody, it was, ‘Hey, they’re screwing with my kid now, so let’s start a war.”
Devon: Was there some of that with Lonnie Vernon too? In the trial it was pretty clear that he had personal skin in the game. The IRS was coming for his house.
Fulton: Yeah, but he wasn’t like a leader of this movement. He didn’t have videos on YouTube. Lonnie Vernon’s just insane.
So then, back at the meeting, this guy Jeramy Lee Baker shows up. He’s the big sovereign guy. And he studied with some judge. They don’t usually use last names, because last names are given by the government or something like that. So he shows up an hour later, and he starts going off into the whole sovereign nowhere land. Schaeffer and Lonnie are eating it up with a spoon.
After the meeting, I call my handler again and say, “What the hell did you guys get me into? This is not cool. And they said if something happens we’ll get your family out of there, but nothing’s going to happen. Call tomorrow.
So the next morning, I get coffee and go into Far North Tactical.
Devon: Far North Tactical is the shop, kind of like Drop Zone, that’s in Fairbanks. The owner, Aaron Bennett was called as a witness at the trial. What was your relationship with him?
Fulton: I love Aaron. I do. He’s a good guy. He takes care of his family, he works hard, he takes care of his employees.
Devon: He must have had a similar clientele. Was he disturbed by that type, as you were?
Fulton: He is that type. He’s got his own little group up there. He IS that type. Has he ever represented himself as anything different? (laughs) He’s one of them. They’re his people. He’s from Northern Idaho, for God’s sake.
He told me about how his whole family was home-schooled, and how the whole Ruby Ridge thing went down. That area is genetically right-wing. He’s an interesting guy, and I love him. I consider him a friend. I know he hates me now. But even with all his faults, and everything that he believes being wrong, at the core the guy is still a good man.
Devon: You touch on something with that statement, but I think that there are people like the Ron Paul Libertarians, and militia guys that believe in their heart what they believe in their heart, whether or not people agree with them, but they’re not…
Fulton: Exactly. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to say about Aaron. I’ve known Aaron for quite a few years. And again, I still consider him a friend. I know he doesn’t consider me one, but he’s a good man. He’s not going to hurt anyone. But he believes what he believes. He has his own little militia group up there, and more power to him. I don’t know. I’m conflicted with Aaron.
Devon: Well, these are bunch of complicated people.
Fulton: Yeah, and the whole thing’s a big complicated mess.
So I see Aaron that morning, and I’m like, ‘Dude, Schaeffer’s going crazy. We need to have a meeting.’ And I’m thinking this is beautiful timing, because everybody’s there at this thing. So throughout the day, I’m talking to other leaders who are there, and sowing the seeds of doubt about Schaeffer. About 50/50 were on the fence with it anyway.
And Schaeffer probably doesn’t know to this day, but a lot of these guys were all for the Revolution starting, but they knew he was nuts, and the idea was to let him do something and take the lead, and then put a bullet in his head.
Devon: You mean the other militia guys? The people who were on his side? I don’t understand. Why?
Fulton: Because he’s dangerous. He’s an idiot. I don’t think he understands that he was just the catalyst. They thought he had 20,000 or 30,000 guys in the Lower 48 that were going to help him. He was influential. There are thousands of people. When he started going to the Flathead Valley – they still have a Liberty Bell Network there, and an Assembly Post. And a Flathead Valley 2nd Amendment Task Force. And in Alaska, the IACC has a lot of prominent Republicans.
There are right now a lot of people in the Interior [of Alaska] who were either sympathizers, or who were directly helping him. There are people who are currently in the IACC. These people enabled him to get as bad as he was. They supported him right until it became uncomfortable for them.
[The Interior Alaska Conservative Coalition described themselves online as "Interior Conservatives with a common purpose regardless of party affiliation. IACC accepts the responsibility of restoring government to its original purpose of protecting the God- given rights of its citizens as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. IACC acts locally to effect change nationally. Ask your facebook friends to join the Interior Alaska Conservative Coalition. Join us as we help Schaeffer Cox deliver his message to a growing number." Their current Facebook page has a similar message, but with no reference to Cox.]
Devon: And that brings us to the big militia conference that happened in Anchorage.
[Part 3 to come]