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More Fairchild personnel named in criminal indictment alleging theft of ammunition from base

UPDATED: Thu., May 5, 2022

Ammunition, such as 5.56mm rounds for the M4 carbine, are seen in this May 2019 photo from the armory at Fairchild Air Force Base. Federal investigators allege six servicemembers at the base stole thousands of rounds of ammunition similar to this and falsified documents to conceal the theft.   (DAN PELLE)
Ammunition, such as 5.56mm rounds for the M4 carbine, are seen in this May 2019 photo from the armory at Fairchild Air Force Base. Federal investigators allege six servicemembers at the base stole thousands of rounds of ammunition similar to this and falsified documents to conceal the theft.  (DAN PELLE)

The Fairchild Air Force Base staff sergeant facing allegations of making violent, antigovernment statements online before stealing ammunition from the installation pleaded not guilty to additional crimes Thursday in federal court in Spokane.

John I. Sanger, 30, is one of six servicemembers named in an indictment handed down this week by a federal grand jury, charging them with crimes including theft of government property, possession of stolen ammunition and possession of an unregistered firearm. Authorities, including members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, were first alerted to Sanger by social media posts he allegedly made between the 2020 presidential election and the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The poster, using the moniker “problematicpatriot,” expressed the belief that the election system had been “defrauded” and “people have to die.”

Sanger appeared briefly in court Thursday to answer the new charges, with a potential penalty of up to a decade in federal prison. He also waived his right to a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Goeke to argue for release pending trial, before being led back to jail in handcuffs and a yellow Spokane County Jail jumpsuit.

Eric Eagleton, 29, who had also been arrested last week, appeared before Goeke on Tuesday and was released from custody, over the objection of federal prosecutors. He is charged in the grand jury indictment with five criminal counts, including possession of an unregistered firearm. According to the indictment, federal authorities executing a search warrant found a “gold and bronze in color firearm suppressor,” a device intended to quiet the sound of gunfire, without a serial number as required by federal law.

In a criminal complaint filed last month, an undercover Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent who was wearing a wire recorded Eagleton discussing “his anti-Semitic views and dislike for Jews.” Sanger, who was also present at the meeting in March, told Eagleton he enjoyed meeting other individuals who “hated the government and the military,” according to the complaint.

The agent, Sanger and Eagleton then went to a shooting range at Fishtrap Lake, where they shot ammunition believed to belong to Fairchild Air Force Base. After the shoot, the undercover agent was given dozens of rounds of ammunition from a plastic zip-close bag.

The indictment also names Shawn Robson, 40; Nathan Richards, 25; Jonah Pierce, 25; and Austin Limacher, 28. The men, identified as working either in the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance center on the base or at its armory, are accused of helping to falsify documents allowing the theft of thousands of rounds of green-tipped, 5.56 mm ammunition for an AR-15 rifle. The criminal complaint indicated the stolen ammunition originated at Richards’ residence in Airway Heights. Warrant searches also yielded two additional unmarked suppressors belonging to Limacher; and Robson, Richards and Pierce were in possession of red-dot sights belonging to the government, according to the indictment.

Authorities also found rounds “consistent with the stolen ammunition” at the residences of all six defendants.

Robson, Pierce and Limacher were listed in documents as continuing to live in the area. Richards had been reassigned in early April to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada.

None of the other men was listed in custody of the Spokane County Jail on Thursday.

Arraignment hearings, when the defendants will formally answer the charges against them, are scheduled for Friday and later in May. Appointed attorneys for the other defendants either declined comment or did not return requests for comment Thursday.

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