May 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Stolen Gi Gear Seized By Agents Equipment Recovered In Bonners Ferry Raids

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Federal agents seized more than $1 million worth of stolen military equipment - enough to fill eight large trucks - in raids in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Although no firearms or munitions were found, agents seized a stunning array of military gear Wednesday, everything from a fire truck and computer disks to parachutes and night-vision goggles.

Court documents filed Thursday say the items are government surplus, mostly from Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, that should have gone to the Kootenai Tribe.

But instead of being used by the North Idaho tribe, most of the gear went to the homes of two nontribal members, the documents say.

The equipment was seized at the home of Guy Hopkins, who lives on Main Street in Bonners Ferry, and the rural residence of Bruce Teter. He lives in a converted grain silo with a glass dome on Cow Creek Road northeast of Bonners Ferry.

Neither Hopkins, 29, nor Teter, 48, were arrested or charged in connection with the seizures. They couldn’t be located for comment Thursday.

The two men had government-issued cards giving them permission to obtain surplus military equipment for the tribe, the documents say.

Defense Department investigators are now attempting to determine if the military equipment was being illegally resold.

“It’s possible, and that’s exactly what we’re still looking into,” said Randal Stewart, resident agent in charge of the Seattle office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

The investigation began several months ago and is continuing, said assistant U.S. attorneys Bruce Didesch and Earl Hicks.

The case is expected to be presented to a federal grand jury in Spokane.

It centers on theft of government property, theft of property for federally funded programs, and false statements to the government, court documents say.

There is no wrongdoing alleged on the part of the Kootenai Tribe, which has its reservation in Boundary County. The tribe has about 100 members.

Like government agencies, the tribe under federal rules has first crack at surplus federal property.

The General Services Administration issued “screener cards” to two North Idaho men who purported to represent the tribe and claimed the surplus items, the documents say. .

Kootenai Tribe officials said the men did not deliver “most of the property obtained,” according to court documents.

An estimated $250,000 worth of equipment released to the two men was not located during the searches, Steward said.

There are no indications that the case has anything to do with militia or anti-government activities, federal sources say.

But investigators - still recovering from what some of them jokingly call “Weaver fever” - took no chances in staging the raids not far from Randy Weaver’s Ruby Ridge cabin.

Three dozen federal agents from three agencies were involved in serving the search warrants. They were served without incident.

Agents used eight semi-tractor trailers to haul the evidence to Spokane. It is being temporarily stored in a warehouse at Fairchild.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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