Toledo couple indicted for conspiracy to use explosives and firearms to kill and injure others
A Toledo couple was indicted in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy to use explosives and firearms to kill and injure others.
Elizabeth Lecron, 23, and Vincent Armstrong, 23, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to transport or receive an explosive with intent to kill, injure or intimidate any individual , and maliciously damage or destroy by fire or explosive; conspiracy to use a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence; conspiracy to use firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence; and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Armstrong faces an additional count of making false statements while Lecron is also charged with transporting explosives in interstate commerce.
“According to the allegations in the indictment, this pair obtained firearms and components to make explosives as part of a plot to kill and maim others,” said Justin E. Herdman, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Law enforcement worked together to thwart this alleged plot, and we will remain vigilant to protect the public from all threats.”
“The arrest of Elizabeth Lecron and Vincent Armstrong and their prosecution interrupted their alleged desire to engage in acts of death and destruction,” said Robert E. Hughes, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office. “This case is a testament to the value of an ever vigilant public, which had the courage to alert law enforcement as to the alleged goals and intentions of these suspects."
Toledo Police Chief George Kral said: “These arrests should send a sobering message to everyone that there is no city, large or small, that is immune to these types of hate-filled attacks. I am incredibly proud of the response by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Toledo Police Department, and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. This is yet another example of a well-coordinated, local/federal law enforcement partnership. Toledo is a safer city because of the dedication of these hardworking law enforcement professionals.”
According to the indictment and other documents filed in the case:
Lecron and Armstrong came to the attention of law enforcement last year after Armstrong expressed a desire to conduct a violent attack. Further investigation revealed Lecron frequently posted voluminous photographs and comments on social media glorifying mass murderers, including the Columbine shooters and Dylann Roof.
After her Tumblr account was shut down because of offensive content, Lecron started a new profile -- “CharlestonChurchMiracle,” -- where she continued to post photos and comments about mass casualty attacks.
Armstrong and Lecron flew together in August 2018 to visit sights related to the shooting at Columbine High School.
During a search of their home that month, law enforcement found an AK-47, shotgun, multiple handguns, ammunition and end caps purchased by Armstrong, which can be used in the manufacture of pipe bombs. Law enforcement also found journal entries by Lecron and Armstrong discussing a violent attack. On June 8, Armstrong wrote: “Now I have these thoughts…These memories. They haunt me. I have a vision. A vision to kill. To hunt the unwilling...”
Undercover FBI agents and confidential sources communicated with Lecron. In August, she stated she and Armstrong had devised a plan to commit an “upscale mass murder” at a Toledo bar. She stated she knew the bar only had two ways in or out, which could be a tactical advantage when police arrived.
Around this time, Lecron also began corresponding with Roof and attempted to send him Nazi literature.
Lecron stated she wanted to meet other anarchists in order to form a team. She stated she wanted to damage a livestock farm to set livestock free. She later confirmed she was willing to sabotage anything that harms the environment.
On August 28, she reiterated she wanted to attack a farm that raises pigs or cows. The next day, Lecron stated she could not locate such a farm and was going to focus on something else.
In September, Lecron met with undercover FBI agents and stated she and an associate started to make a pipe bomb. She stated she “definitely want(ed) to make a statement up here” and thought the place where she worked could be a good target because she believed they were polluting the river behind the plant.
On December 4, Lecron has discussions with an undercover agent regarding a pipeline bombing. Lecron agreed to buy black powder needed to make a bomb.
On December 8, Lecron met with a source at a retail sporting good stores, where she entered the store by herself and purchased two pounds of Hodgson Triple Seven Muzzleloading Propellant. She then went to a larger retailer in Perrysburg, where she purchased 665 screws of various sizes, some as large as three inches.
Lecron said to the source: “So I guess I’ll talk to you when the deed is done?” She later said: “I’m very excited...stick it to him man…be safe.”
On December 10, law enforcement searched the residence Armstrong and Lecron share on Willow Run Drive, as well as their vehicles. The trunk of Armstrong’s vehicle had a duffel bag that contained a tactical vest with two loaded magazines for an AK-47, two loaded magazines for a pistol, a gas mask, printouts of instructions how to construct various bombs, and other items.
In the residence, law enforcement removed a shotgun, a handgun and an AK-47 with the stock removed.
Armstrong was interviewed on December 10. He denied discussing with Lecron plans to launch an attack. He also denied purchasing items that could be used to make a bomb.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of members of the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Toledo Police Department, is leading the ongoing investigation. They were assisted by the FBI’s office in Denver. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Freeman and Michelle Baeppler.
If convicted, the defendants’ face up to life in prison. Their sentences will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.