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Fbi Lure Freemen Leaders With Elaborate Deception

Wed., March 27, 1996

In the West, the quickest and trickiest wins.

That became clear Tuesday as details surfaced about the arrests of freemen leaders LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen.

FBI agents grabbed the pair Monday by using deception and speed.

Agents posed as ham radio antenna installers who were erecting a transmission tower at the freemen’s Justus Township.

U.S. Attorney Sherry Matteucci didn’t elaborate on the FBI’s tactics Tuesday at a briefing in Billings.

The federal prosecutor said authorities worked on the arrest plan for some time and satisfied their goal of catching the men without bloodshed.

Those familiar with the operation say it worked this way:

A man who was either an undercover officer or a paid informer began attending common-law classes at the freemen’s compound and befriended Schweitzer, Petersen and others.

Like other militia-type organizations, the freemen are interested in ham radios and use them to exchange information and messages.

They wanted to erect a large radio antenna on a hilltop on the property of freeman Ralph Clark, who remains a fugitive.

An installation crew showed up about daybreak on Monday, spreading the metal antenna pieces and other building materials on a blue tarp atop the ridge where the tower was to be built.

At some point, the undercover ham radio expert approached Schweitzer and Petersen and asked whether they could briefly leave the freemen headquarters.

He reportedly asked the two men to inspect the tower site to see if they approved of the location. Schweitzer and Petersen agreed.

The freemen were wearing two handguns each when they took the short drive to the tower site.

Once there, FBI agents their guns drawn - swooped in and made the arrests.

, DataTimes

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