Criminal complaint – United States v. Ryan Daniel Lewis

Criminal complaint – United States of America v. Ryan Daniel Lewis

Case number: 2:05-MJ-00036PAN





I, Angela Y. Armstrong, Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Untied States Department of Justice, having been duly sworn, do depose and state the following:

1. I have been a special Agent of the FBI since June 2002. I have been assigned to the Domestic Terrorism squad for the Sacramento Division since my arrival in Sacramento in November 2002, and have investigated primarily those matters involving sovereign citizens, including fraud, threats to use weapons of mass destruction, and white supremacists.

2. I am currently investigating a series of three interrelated arsons that are believed to have been committed by members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) eco-terrorist group. The targets of each of these arson attacks were buildings under construction which, upon completion, were to be sold or rented in the local real estate market. I am aware that it is a violation of 18 U.S.C. 844(I) to use fire to damage or destroy a building used in or affecting interstate commerce.

3. Based on my personal participation in this investigation, including my discussion with other investigating agents, other law enforcement agencies, and interviews with reliable witnesses, I am familiar with the facts and circumstances of this investigation. The information set forth herein, in this Affidavit, reflects my personal knowledge or has been provided to me by other law enforcement officers, investigative analysts and agents with whom I have spoken, or whose reports I have reviewed.

4. This affidavit is made in support of a warrant for the arrest of RYAN DANIEL LEWIS for a violations of 18 U.S.C. 844 (I) (arson) and 844 (n) (conspiracy to commit arson) and 2 (aiding and abetting).


A. Background of ELF

5. The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a recognized eco-terrorist group. A major concern of ELF is suburban real estate development. Environmental extremists under the Earth Liberation Front banner have been known to use arson and sabotage to attempt to stop development. Since 1997 estimates of damage inflicted by ELF run in excess of $100 million.

6. ELF adherents share a strong philosophical connection to the anarchist movement.

B.12/27/2004 Attempted Arson in Lincoln, CA

7. On December 27, 2004, at the Verdera Models construction site located in Lincoln, CA incendiary devises were located in three houses under construction on Flores Court in the Twelve Bridges development. These devices were capable of causing extensive fire damage to the structures if they had successfully functioned. The Placer County Bomb Squad, utilizing their EOD (explosives ordnance disposal) robot, rendered these devices safe.

8. Graffiti was discovered on another house under construction in the same development. The graffiti found at the scene included notations such as “Enjoy the world as is – as long as you can”, “U will pay”, “Evasion”, “4 Q” and “Leave”. This house also sustained broken windows. The letters “ELF” were printed in the cul-de-sac where these homes were located. Across the street from this house a tractor had been vandalized with the notation “Disarm or die”.

9. The four incendiary devices that were found at the scene are described as being a white plastic five gallon bucket containing a gasoline/diesel mixture. On top of each of the white five gallon buckets, there was affixed, a sixteen inch by sixteen inch square wooden truss assembly, to which was affixed, a white plastic manual kitchen timer with red electrical wires leading to a road flare. Attached to the striker end of the road flare were several paper matches taped with black electrical tape. Inside the taped matches were igniters. Also found at scene, were several areas of graffiti using blue spray paint. The ends of the electrical wires were cut and soldered. The wooden matches were glued to the dial of the manual kitchen timer.

C. 01/12/2005 Attempted Arson in Auburn, CA

10. On January 12, 2005, five incendiary devices were located in a commercial building under construction in Auburn, California that, upon completion, were to be rented as doctor’s offices. The devices were found at 440 Auburn Folsom Road, which is part of the Parkhill Professional Center.

11. The incendiary devices were found by construction workers who notified the Auburn Police Department. The Auburn Police Department, along with the Placer County Sheriffs Department EOD (explosives ordnance disposal), rendered the devices inoperable.

12. The incendiary devices found at the Auburn site are similar to the devices discovered in Lincoln, CA on December 27, 2004, at the Verdera at Twelve Bridges construction site.

13. The five incendiary devices that were found at the scene are described as being white and orange plastic five gallon buckets containing a gasoline/diesel mixture. On top of each of the plastic five gallon buckets, there were pieces of wooden framing material to which was affixed a white plastic manual kitchen timer with green electrical wires leading to a fifteen minute road flare. The green electrical wires were attached to the kitchen timer with yellow and black tape. Attached to the dial of the kitchen timer were wooden matches, a 9-volt Duracel battery with yellow, green, and black electrical tape. Inside the taped matches were igniters. The ends of the electrical wires were cut and soldered. The wooden matches were glued to the dial of the manual kitchen timer.

D. 01/15/2005 “Emma Goldman” Letter

14. On January 15, 2005, a letter claiming responsibility for “the actions taken in Placer County (CA)” was received by several media outlets including the Auburn Journal, Roseville Press-Tribune, Lincoln Ledger, and Sacramento Bee. The letter mentions the “4 homes in JTS Communities Twelve Bridges housing development in the city of Lincoln and the Park Hill Office buildings under construction, in the City of Auburn,” both located in Placer County.

15. The return address on the letter indicaed it was from “Emma Goldman.” Emma Goldman is a major figure in the history of anarchism. As previously indicated there is a strong connection between the ELF and the anarchist movement.

16. The rambling, two-page letter, which appears to have been computer generated, generally decries various aspects of modern life, including real-estate development, and promises that “there will be at least one or more actions every few weeks.”

17. The letter concludes, “With sincere love, ‘Agent Emma Goldman and the Crimethinc Senior Officers of the Earth Liberation Front’ ” and also references eight websites, including “www.crimthinc.ocm.” The latter website describes itself as an “ex-workers’ collective” and generally expresses an anarchistic philosophy.

E. 02/07/2005 Arson in Sutter Creek

18. On 02/07/2005, seven incendiary devices were found in five buildings of the Pinewoods Apartment Homes complex, located at 1 Pinewoods Lane, Sutter Creek, CA. These buildings were either completed or in the final stages of construction. Some of the renters were scheduled to move in that same day.

19. Graffiti found at the site included “ELF” and “We will win: in red paint.

20. Upon activation of the fire alarms at the apartment complex, the apartment manager contacted the Sutter Creek Fire Department. Sprinkler systems installed in the Buildings extinguished six of the seven devices. The fire caused by one device was extinguished by the fire department. Damage was estimated at $50,000 by the general contractor, J. R. Roberts.

21. The devices, all in various stages of being burned, appear to be constructed using materials consisting of, but not limited to, plastic milk jugs, flammable liquids, matches and sponges. This is unlike the construction of those devices found on December 27, 2004 in Lincoln, CA and on January 12, 2005 in Auburn, CA.

22. Sutter Creek is located approximately 45 miles southeast of Sacramento, approximately 55 miles from Auburn, and approximately 62 miles from Lincoln, CA, sites of recent attempted arsons within the Sacramento area.

23. Found at the seven burn sites, the devices consisted of plastic containers filled with gasoline. The containers ranged from 20-ounce to 64-ounce to one gallon plastic milk containers. Several of the containers were placed at the scene in black plastic bags. One of the incendiary devices had a blue colored latex glove as a wick. Found adjacent to one of the devices was a white plastic cap-like lid. Attached to several of the containers were the remains of burned green sponge/scouring pads and clear plastic one-inch diameter plastic containers. Also found at the site was graffiti saying, “We will win” and “ELF” spray-painted with red paint on the exterior of a metal storage building. Adjacent to the Sutter Creek site, tire impressions and shoe prints were found in the soil adjacent to the area of egress.

F. Interview of Citizen Informant.

24. On 02/08/2005, a citizen informant was interviewed and related the following information. On 01/13/2005, the citizen informant had a chance conversation with Greg Lewis, the father of Ryan Lewis. During that conversation, Lewis opined to the informant that he thought his son, Ryan Lewis, was involved in the arson attempt in Auburn, CA the previous day. The informant stated that Lewis believed his son was involved because of Ryan’s political views, because his pickup truck was missing the night of the arson, and because he found red diesel in the bed of the truck the next day. Lewis then told the informant that he confronted his son, Ryan that same day, January 13, 2005 with the above information, including that the news reported that red diesel was found at the site of the attempted arson in Auburn, CA. Ryan neither confirmed nor denied that he had any involvement in or knowledge of the attempted arsons. Greg Lewis also confided in the informant that he believed that his son was involved in the arsons.

G. Interview of Greg Lewis

25. On 02/08/2005, Agents interviewed Greg Lewis. During that interview, Lewis stated that he believed his son was involved in the attempted arson, repeating the above stated facts, to include that, after Lewis confronted Ryan, Ryan reacted by “fluttering his eyes” and by being non-responsive. Lewis also stated that, because he was a general contractor, he had all the components of the Auburn and Lincoln attempted arsons except for the red diesel, gasoline and flares.

26. The Greg Lewis interview took place in the shed on his property. At the conclusion of the interview, Agents observed a skateboard that Greg Lewis identified as belonging to his son, Ryan Lewis. Agents observed writings on the skateboard including the words and phrases, “crimethinc”, “art as terrorism”, “this means war”, “the trigger has been pulled”, and “you will find your only safety is in danger.”

27. Greg Lewis also stated on Monday, February 07, and Tuesday, February 08, that he observed in the back of Ryan’s Subaru, black plastic bags containing one gallon, empty plastic milk jugs and other empty plastic containers.

H. Interview with Ryan Lewis

28. On 02/08/2005, Ryan Lewis was interviewed by FBI/JTTF Agents. After initially denying any knowledge of the arson attempts, Ryan Lewis admitted to transporting to the Auburn arson scene, components of the incendiary devices knowing that the would be used to commit an arson. These components included six, white, five-gallon buckets containing a mixture of red diesel and gasoline. Ryan Lewis also admitted to having stolen the red diesel fuel from four construction sites in the Auburn area. He also admitted to knowing and being in contact with the individuals who committed the attempted arsons prior to the arsons.

29. Ryan claimed that he did not have any involvement with the Lincoln arson attempt and that he does not know the identity of the persons who committed that crime or who used his components to commit the Auburn attempted arson. He claimed that following the Lincoln arson attempt, he communicated with the perpetrators of that crime who directed him to deliver the components to the Auburn location.

30. Ryan Lewis acknowledged being aware that Emma Goldman was a eminent anarchist. He was asked about the word, “crimethinc” written on his skateboard and he acknowledged that he agreed with the philosophy expressed by crimethinc.

31. During the interview, Agents observed that Ryan Lewis had a tube of medicinal cream in his hands. Agents asked Ryan Lewis about the cream and Lewis responded that it was for his case of poison oak. Agents observed the poison oak on his right elbow and legs.

32. The above fact is significant because of the Sutter Creek arson site, investigators discovered that the suspect(s) egressed through an area with a heavy growth of poison oak.


33. Based on the facts set forth in this Affidavit, I have probable cause to believe that Ryan Lewis has violated Title 18 U.S.C. Sections 844 (I) and 2 (Arson and aiding and abetting). I also have probable cause o believe that Ryan Lewis has violated Title 18 U.S.C. Sections 844 (n) (Conspiracy to commit arson).

34. Based upon the number of devices found at each location and the time it would take to transport, place and activate each of the devices, it is likely that more than one individual was involved at each location. Ryan, himself, indicated that he did not act alone. His statement that he was not involved with the Lincoln arson attempt, and only transported devices to the Auburn location, may be an effort to minimize his culpability in light of the fact that the components of those two arsons were virtually identical.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, and that this affidavit.

/s/ Angela Y. Armstrong

Special Agent

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Sacramento, California

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 9 day of Feb. 2005.

U. S. Magistrate

Leave a Reply