A shadowy online vigilante group claims to have placed bounties on a dozen Mecklenburg County judges, accusing them and hundreds of other elected officials across the country of treason and environmental crimes.
About three dozen elected officials and government employees in the Asheville area have received fake news “Enforcement Notices”, a type of order that enforces a court decision, seeks $1 million in fines and threatens to arrest citizens, the authorities said smoky mountain news, who first reported the story. Bounties of up to $20,000 would be paid by the nonexistent US Environmental District Court for each officer seized.
A copy of one of the mailings appears on a website for a group that bills itself as “The People’s Bureau of Investigation,” which also maintains a nationwide database of government objectives it allegedly served. Names range from President Joe Biden to district and community workers from the mountains of North Carolina.
“WE THE PEOPLE, through the PBI, will bring justice to those who oppose liberty, liberty, the Constitution, our founding documents and the American way of life… The people have ENOUGH!” according to a website manifesto.
Annoyance or legitimate threat?
It is unclear what threat, if any, the mailings pose. But they come at a time when the country’s criminal justice system — from judges to the police to the FBI — has become the target of increasingly explosive rhetoric and isolated acts of violence, most recently from the right.
“In the past, this was viewed more as a nuisance,” said Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell of Charlotte, a Republican whose name appears in the PBI database.
“But in light of what’s going on today, there is a realization that there may be things to fear that we don’t even know we need to fear. It’s the unknown that’s so concerning.”
On August 11th, a gunman from Ohio in body armor, angered by the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s home this month, attempted to break into the agency’s Cincinnati office. He was later shot dead after firing shots with police. Meanwhile the Judge who signed the warrant Allowing the FBI search has received threats from Trump supporters.
In North Carolina, the FBI says it is aware of the mailings, but the extent of agent involvement remains unclear.
Shelley Lynch, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Charlotte office, told The Charlotte Observer that the agency is in “regular contact” with officials in Haywood County, west of Asheville, where about half of the letters allegedly from NC Officials received were mailed to the Smoky Mountain News.
However, citing Justice Department guidelines, Lynch would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation is ongoing.
The list of alleged targets includes 11 current or former Mecklenburg judges. Bell, a Republican who will leave the bank at the end of the year, said she did not receive any of the bogus letters and was unaware she was listed until she was contacted by the Observer on Friday.
Likewise, Bell’s colleague on the Supreme Court bench, Charlotte Democrat Lou Trosch, said he did not receive an injunction, although his name appears on the list of those served. He called the listing “worrying,” particularly in light of “an environment where there are increasing attacks on all aspects of our justice system.”
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Carla Archie, who also appears in the database, told the Observer on Friday that she too had not received any of the orders. Archie, a Democrat, declined further comment.
PBI linked to Illinois man
In tone and content, the threats and other writing on the bogus documents resemble common harassment claims by the Moorish nation, sovereign citizens and other individuals or groups who refuse to recognize judicial authority.
On rarer occasions, judges appear to be the target of physical threats — as in 2015, when two Charlotte judges and the then-Charlotte City Attorney were placed under police surveillance after their photos were later found in a gang leader’s cell for ordering the murder sentenced to a witness in his case.
The Smoky Mountain News linked the PBI website to Tim Dever, who runs one arcade company in a suburb of Chicago. Dever’s social media pages include the PBI logo. His LinkedIn page describes him as CEO and “Freedom Fighting Cereal (sic) Entrepreneur”.
Dever did not respond to an email request from Observer Monday for comment.
The PBI database of alleged NC targets contains about 70 names. Most are elected officials drawn from both parties, including Chief Justice Paul Newby and several other members of the state Supreme Court. Others appear to be government employees; A few have jobs in the private sector. The website has leveled allegations against them of treason, deep state corruption and environmental crimes, including poisoning public water supplies.
A spokesman for the Courts Management Office, which runs the state court system, said Monday that “the Justice Department does not comment on issues related to the safety of judges or judges.”
Along with the $1 million fine, the defendant would have to appear in court, the PBI website said.
“Our so-called governments refuse to arrest themselves and their criminal accomplices. Our so-called governments are destructive,” the website reads.
“Sheriffs, other elected officials and responsible business leaders must sign their respective resolutions in hopes of receiving leniency for their crimes against humanity.”