Defense: FBI watched its 'double agent' break laws

(The Center Square) – New court filings say the FBI was aware an informant, or Confidential Human Source (CHS), used a charity to fund weapons in the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer but authorities didn’t charge him until more than a year later.

In December 2021, prosecutors charged former confidential informant Stephen Robeson with using money intended to combat child sex trafficking to fund weapons.

The FBI says it didn’t know Robeson used charity money to fund attacks. However, on Aug. 9, 2020, Special Agents Henrik Impola and Jayson Chambers “monitored” a call between “CHS Dan” and Adam Fox in which Fox said he asked if "CHS Steve’s" 504 is “set up to where it’s profiting money or raising money,” which “Dan” confirmed.

The alleged plotters, seven of whom have been charged, used the charity money to fund operations in June, July, August and September 2020, court records maintain. The FBI surveilled the group via at least 12 confidential informants and recorded more than 1,000 hours of conversation via phone lines, text messages, and devices hidden inside key fobs.

Now, the FBI and prosecutors claim Robeson was a “double agent” who disobeyed FBI rules, illegally purchased a firearm, undermined the investigation, offered to use a drone to commit domestic terrorism, and warned one of the alleged plotters before an arrest.

Court records say Robeson organized and paid for the “anti-government” meeting in Dublin, Ohio, on June 6, 2020, and on July 18, 2020, in Peebles, Ohio, where he bought “pizza, moonshine, and paid for attendees' hotel rooms.”

In all, “CHS Steve,” or Robeson, was paid $19,328.79.

But on Sept. 26 – 13 days before the Whitmer sting – prosecutors charged Robeson with illegally obtaining a .50 caliber rifle. Federal law prohibits convicted felons from buying firearms.

It’s unclear why the FBI apparently allowed Robeson to use charity money to fund weapon purchases for the alleged attackers, only to arrest Robeson for the same charge.

Robeson had multiple felony convictions before the FBI recruited him on Oct. 20, 2019, through Oct. 28, 2020. The Detroit News reported Robeson’s criminal history includes convictions for having sex with a child age 16 or older, sexual assault, and bail jumping. However, he’s skipping the typical sentence for a recidivist convicted felon of 10 years in prison via a plea deal of time served plus probation.

Critics say the lenient deal is strange because now, prosecutors claim Robeson was working “against the interests of the government.” Robeson’s lawyer claimed the FBI authorized Robeson on Dec. 26 "to otherwise engage in illegal conduct.”

Three lead FBI agents are no longer scheduled to testify in the March 8 trial in Grand Rapids.

The former lead FBI agent credited with foiling the plot, Richard Trask, was arrested on a domestic violence charge after allegedly smashing his wife’s head into a desk after leaving a swinger sex party. He was later fired by the bureau. Henrik Impola won’t be testifying after he was accused of perjury in a separate case. Jayson Chambers allegedly used the Whitmer plot to promote his side security consulting firm called Exeintel.

Defense attorneys argue the foundation of the government’s entire case rests on discredited FBI agents and indicted confidential informants, the latter of whom were wary of executing the plan, shown through 258 out-of-court statements that the FBI calls "hearsay."

For example, On Sept. 5, 2020 – one month and three days before the sting arrest – Chambers allegedly texted an informant: “Mission is to kill the governor specifically.”

On Aug 9, 2020, alleged plotter Ty Garbin said: “Kidnapping is just as bad as going into the Capitol.”

The defense argued the court should allow the out-of-court statements from FBI agents and confidential informants.

“The Government now seeks to distance itself from the very same group of agents and informants, and their inconvenient actions and statements during the upcoming jury trial,” attorney Christopher Gibbons wrote. “Adam Fox has a right to confront his accusers and should be permitted to introduce the statements of the CHS’s and the Special Agents in support of his defense at trial.”

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