The FBI, ATF, Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Patrol orchestrated a joint operation to arrest a Southern California man for buying a completely legal solvent trap on the internet after finding books in his house suggesting he might harbor "racist" beliefs.
According to court documents obtained by National Justice, Department of Homeland Security agent Jon Dellinger's team intercepted an international package intended for 20-year-old Matthew Brian Thibodeau, an Imperial, California resident.
Inside the package was a Chinese produced solvent trap purchased off Ali Baba, an item used to clean firearms that the ATF has publicly ruled is entirely legal. Solvent traps are freely available for purchase online and at gun shops in the United States. The product only becomes illegal when it is altered by a gunsmith to function as a suppressor.
Nevertheless, DHS agents ignored this and opened up an investigation in Thibodeau. They went undercover and proceeded to deliver the parcel.
After confirming Thibodeau's identity, the DHS' Homeland Security Investigations Imperial Valley Border Enforcement Security Task Force (IVBEST) then executed a search warrant at his home. The use of IVBEST in this capacity is highly unusual, as the unit is primarily tasked with border control and international criminal syndicates.
During the search, the solvent trap was found in a desk in its original condition (unaltered), along with a number of legally owned firearms.
According to SA Dellinger, they then transported Thibodeau to an interrogation room where he held that the item was intended solely for cleaning his firearms. In his statement, he made clear that he had painstakingly researched the legality of the item to comply with federal regulations. The agents gave him a citation for a suppressor anyway and released him without incident.
The case then gets even stranger. According to Dellinger, they then learned from the FBI that Thibodeau had posted "white nationalist" content on the internet.
The FBI apparently had visited Thibodeau months prior to his arrest to question him about political materials he was posting online. The man used his right to remain silent and refused to speak to them.
SA Dellinger then contacted the US Attorney's office and obtained another search warrant, this time for Thibodeau's electronics and any political literature "related to white nationalists."
It's highly unlikely that Dellinger's complaint is accurate. Judging from the mobilization of so many federal resources for what amounts to buying a legal solvent trap, it's more plausible that Thibodeau's mail was already under surveillance and the federal government doesn't want the public or judge to know.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the agents confiscated personal notebooks expressing "racist" ideas, a t-shirt they say has a Nazi logo on it, and a copy of the Turner Diaries, a relatively common fantasy novel.
Federal authorities are now labeling Thibodeau a "domestic terrorist" based solely on the books they found on his shelf. He is being charged twice for the same alleged crime, under California state law and federal law.
They are now attempting to get a judge to give them permission to comb through his electronics using their characterization of what his political views may be as probable cause.
So far, the case has been relatively inactive, with the most recent entry being from March 29th. In this decision, Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro reprimanded the US Attorney's office for withholding exculpatory evidence from Thibodeau's defense.
The US Attorney and DHS' decision to get the Associated Press to talk about this arrest appears to be intended to bully the judge into ruling in their favor. Generally speaking, the political content of books in a suspects possession do not meet the criteria for probable cause.
In an age of record immigration and international criminal syndicates launching ransomware attacks that have led to a national fuel shortage, Alejandro Mayorkas is using DHS and its international crime investigation unit to bully a 20-year-old American citizen for beliefs he personally disagrees with.