Militia Members Indicted for Conspiracy to Murder Border Patrol Officers and Attempted Murder of FBI Agents
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A total of 17 defendants, primarily from the Kansas City metropolitan area, have been indicted for their roles in a nearly $10 million conspiracy to distribute almost 1,000 kilograms of methamphetamine.
Fahrudin F. Fejzic, also known as “Frank,” 48, Steven M. Lyons, also known as “Pops,” 60, Shelly Marie Exton, 38, Mary L. Corona, 38, and Jesus Banuelos Jr., 21, all of Kansas City, Missouri; Jessica E. Ashworth, also known as “Barbie,” 30, of Kansas City, Kansas; Justin D. Warren, 31, and Crystell A. Smith, 34, both of Independence, Missouri; John W. Tatom, 48, of Leavenworth, Kansas; and Lesley A. Wilkerson, 45, of Clinton, Missouri, were charged in a 44-count second superseding indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday, March 11. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of several defendants.
The second superseding indictment adds those 10 defendants to previous indictments that included seven additional defendants: Mirza Alihodzic, also known as “Poni Boi” and “Russian,” 34, a citizen of Bosnia residing in Kansas City, Missouri; Jason D. Rice, 42, Brandy N. Foster, 37, and Keith Dale Hughes, 48, all of Kansas City, Missouri; Michael B. Becher, 38, of Raytown, Missouri; Joshua A. Brown, 36, of Leavenworth; and Amy S. Janish, 44, of Lincoln, Missouri.
The federal indictment alleges that all of the defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from Sept. 1, 2018, to Nov. 5, 2019. The indictment also charges all of the defendants with a related money-laundering conspiracy.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require payment of a money judgment representing all of the proceeds each defendant obtained as a result of the alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy. The forfeiture is based on a conservative street price of $2,300 for 226 grams (a half-pound) of methamphetamine and the total conspiracy distribution of nearly 979 kilograms (978,859 grams) of methamphetamine, totaling approximately $9,961,839.
In addition to the two conspiracy counts, Alihodzic is also charged with two counts of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, illegally possessing a machine gun, two counts of possessing a stolen firearm, possessing an unregistered firearm, possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, and three counts related to distributing methamphetamine.
The indictment also charges various other defendants in the remaining counts with illegally possessing firearms and with possessing and distributing methamphetamine.
According to an affidavit filed in the original criminal complaint, Alihodzic made arrangements with a confidential source to pilot an airplane to California to purchase 40 kilograms of methamphetamine from a Mexican national who is wanted by federal law enforcement for drug trafficking. On Nov. 5, 2019 – the day of the trip – Alihodzic and the confidential source went inside Alihodzic’s residence. Federal agents heard popping noises similar to that of a firearm and the screaming sound of human voices. Investigators determined, based upon the safety of the individuals inside of the residence, to enter the residence. Alihodzic was taken into custody; no evidence of a violent act was immediately observed.
The affidavit also cites previous instances in which Alihodzic was confronted by law enforcement.
Law enforcement investigators were conducting surveillance at Alihodzic’s residence on Feb. 19, 2019. On that day, the affidavit says, investigators seized approximately six pounds of methamphetamine and two firearms, including an AK-47 type assault pistol with two high capacity magazines. Investigators also executed a search warrant at Alihodzic’s residence and seized additional methamphetamine and firearms. They also seized 18 firearms from Alihodzic’s vehicle, including a fully automatic machine gun, two sawed-off shotguns, and a stolen firearm.
Alihodzic was also involved in a shooting on July 5, 2019, in the area of 6th Street and Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, according to the affidavit. Alihodzic was the driver of a Ford F250 pickup from which law enforcement officers seized two firearms. Officers also found a number of spent shell casings on top of the truck, in the street, and in a nearby residence’s front yard.
The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley K. Kavanaugh and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean T. Foley. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.