Three members of an Arizona militia have been indicted for allegedly stealing cocaine and cash from drug smugglers. Border bandits and rip crews are nothing new along Arizona’s border with Mexico. These are individuals akin to pirates—drug traffickers who steal loads from other smugglers on the US side of the border so they don’t have to run the risk of physically transporting the drugs from Mexico. Conflicts often arise during these rip-offs (Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by a rip crew in December 2010), but rarely do the identities of bandits shock US law enforcement.
According to CBS affiliate KPHO in Phoenix, the FBI arrested Parris Frazier, Robert Deatherage, and Erik Foster on July 22, 2015, following a seven-month investigation. According to the official complaint, “Frazier said he had a small group of Patriots that he trusted and they were trying to take care of (steal) anything that came up out of Mexico (drugs) or was going back into Mexico (bulk cash).” The FBI used an undercover agent to work with the militia members, who believed they were stealing drugs and cash from a Mexican cartel.
The complaint also stated that over the course of six months, the undercover agent made contact with Frazier several more times and set up fictitious drug and cash “rips” that were monitored by the Phoenix Police Department and the FBI. At one point, Frazier reportedly offered to kill anyone the undercover agent wanted “taken out.” The final sting occurred on July 22 at a Phoenix warehouse, where the three men were taken into custody.
According to KPHO, Deatherage and Frazier are members of a militia called Arizona Special Operations Group, whose Facebook page contains dozens of pictures taken during operations in the desert south of Phoenix. Deatherage and another militia member named Richard Malley were accused of holding a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy at gunpoint two years ago while on patrol in the desert. Malley was prosecuted for the incident. Deatherage was not charged.
The investigation and arrests came as a surprise to many who are well-versed on illegal border activity. Terry Goddard, a former Arizona attorney general who focused on border crimes, told CBS News he has never heard of smuggling rip-offs being carried out by people affiliated with militias. “I would have never suspected anything of this nature,” Goddard said.
The three men were denied bail because they pose a danger to the community, according to a US District Court Order of Detention, and their trial is scheduled to start on November 3, 2015.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.