GREENBELT, Md. — Three alleged members of the racially motivated violent extremist group "The Base" have been charged in a federal complaint with firearms and illegal immigration-related charges and had plans to come to Virginia ahead of a gun rights rally Monday, officials said Thursday.
A senior official in Gov. Ralph Northam's office confirmed Republican and Democratic lawmakers received an intelligence briefing on the arrests, as well as other possible threats ahead of a gun rally in Richmond set for Monday.
"Law enforcement has been gathering intelligence for weeks," the official said. The classified briefing was conducted by analysts at the Virginia Fusion Center, the hub for FBI, DHS and Virginia State Police personnel to coordinate law enforcement and intelligence responses.
"We have seen before in the Commonwealth that large, heavily armed crowds in a confined space can create an extremely dangerous situation and I want to commend Gov. Northam for taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of Virginians," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.
Federal investigators in a complaint unsealed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland said the organization has been an increasing concern, linking its members to active plans of racially motivated violence.
"There have been multiple, credible threats of violence and individuals from across the country have expressed their intent to descend on our Capitol, including three white nationalists who were arrested earlier (Thursday) by the FBI. I am pleased that the injunction has been denied. My top priority as attorney general has always been to protect all Virginians. So to those who would come here intending to incite violence I simply say, 'Stay home. Don’t come to Virginia. Don't come to Richmond.'"
Brian Mark Lemley, Jr., 33, of Elkton, Md., and Newark, Del., and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Md., were charged with transporting and harboring aliens and conspiring to do so.
Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews, 27, currently of Newark, Del., and Lemley were also charged with transporting a machine gun, disposing of a firearm, and ammunition to an alien unlawfully present in the U.S., officials said.
The group's members discussed, among other things, recruitment, creating a white ethnostate, committing acts of violence against minority communities, including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans, the organization’s military-style training camps, and ways to make improvised-explosive devices in "The Base's" encrypted chat rooms, the federal complaint alleges.
In December 2019, the affidavit alleges that Lemley and Mathews used an upper receiver Lemley ordered, along with other firearms parts, to make a functioning assault rifle. Mathews also allegedly showed the assault rifle to Bilbrough, who examined the assault rifle and returned it to Mathews, according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, the three men tried to make a controlled substance at Lemley and Mathews’s apartment and talked about "The Base’s" activities and spoke about other members of the organization.
Lemley and Mathews bought nearly 1,650 rounds of 5.56 mm and 6.5 mm ammunition in January, traveled from Delaware to a gun range in Maryland, where they shot the assault rifle, and retrieved plate carriers (to support body armor) and at least some of the purchased ammunition from Lemley’s previous home in Maryland, according to the affidavit.
The complaint alleges that on Aug. 19, Mathews unlawfully crossed from Canada into the U.S. near the Manitoba-Minnesota border and that on Aug. 30, Lemley and Bilbrough allegedly drove from Maryland to Michigan in order to pick up Mathews. All three men returned to Maryland on Aug. 31, the complaint alleges.
The three men drove from Virginia to the Eastern Shore of Maryland on Nov. 3, where Bilbrough lived, the complaint alleges. Lemley and Mathews then continued to the area of Elkton, Md., where Lemley got a motel room for Mathews and the following day, he drove Mathews to Delaware, where Lemley rented an apartment, according to the complaint. The two men have lived there since that time, the complaint alleges.
Lemley, according to authorities, previously served as a Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army, and as of August 2019, Mathews, a Canadian citizen in the U.S. illegally, was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve.
If convicted, Bilbrough faces 25 years of prison on the federal charges, Lemley faces up to 40 years in prison on various federal charges and Mathews faces up to 20 years -- 10 years of which include charges of being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition, according to the affidavit.
The trio faces a federal district court judge Thursday afternoon in Greenbelt, Md.