6 Airmen Caught with Thousands of Rounds of Stolen Ammo, Federal Indictment Alleges

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Ammunition is stacked and ready for the Best Warrior competition.
Ammunition is stacked and ready for Army Reserve competitors during the 108th Training Command (IET) Best Warrior and Drill Sergeant of the Year Competitions at Camp Bullis, Texas.

Six airmen had 14,000 rounds of stolen ammunition, mostly from Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, according to federal court documents filed May 3. The ammunition was discovered after at least one of the airmen allegedly made online threats advocating for the violent overthrow of the federal government.

The FBI's Seattle Division opened the investigation into the airmen last August after Staff Sgt. John I. Sanger began discussing acts of violence and advocating for the seizure of the U.S. Capitol. 

Sanger and the five other airmen have been charged with conspiracy to steal government property, possession of stolen ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm.

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"They defrauded our election system and are still getting away with it," Sanger wrote in December 2020 under the social media moniker "problematicpatriot," according to the FBI's affidavit. "That means this system has run it's [sic] course. People have to die."

Sanger has pleaded not guilty.

In March 2022, Sanger -- along with Staff Sgt. Eric Eagleton, another airman accused in the indictment -- met with an undercover Office of Special Investigations agent who was wearing a wire.

According to the affidavit, Eagleton told the agent that he and other members of Fairchild's 92nd Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance center regularly stole ammunition from the armory, adding that he stole up to 3,000 rounds of ammunition per day.

"Teaching these f---ing retards how to handle weapons is pointless," Eagleton allegedly told the special agent. "They literally can't remember how to clear it out, what's the point anyways, send them downrange anyways and let me steal all this ammo."

Nathaniel Richards, another airman accused in the plot, later told the agent that members of the group falsified weapons' qualifications to show that the ammunition was used in training when it was actually stolen for "personal use," according to court documents.

Some 5.56mm ammunition recovered by the Air Force OSI agent during the sting was noted as "expended" a year prior by Fairchild personnel, with some rounds discovered in Richards' residence in Nevada after he transferred to Creech Air Force Base, prosecutors allege.

"We are aware of the arrest of the Airmen stationed here at Fairchild Air Force Base," 1st Lt. Michelle H. Chang, a spokesperson for the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, told Military.com in an email. "We have been and continue to work closely with federal law enforcement authorities to provide all relevant information to assist in this ongoing investigation."

Ammunition, "consistent with the stolen ammunition," according to court records, was also discovered in the residences of Sanger, Eagleton, Shawn Robson, Austin Limacher and Jonah Pierce -- the other airmen charged in the indictment. Ranks for the four other airmen were not included in court documents.

Last month, U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref lauded the joint FBI-OSI investigation, saying "when individuals put their own interests ahead of others and abuse the public trust, those individuals dishonor the countless public servants who dedicate their lives to government and military service."

Military.com attempted to reach the defendants' legal teams for comment, but none replied by publication. Richards did not have an attorney assigned to him, it appeared, according to court records.

The indictment also stated that some members of the group possessed other stolen military equipment, such as red dot optics and PEQ-15 target illuminators.

It is unclear, based on court records, what the group intended to use the ammunition for, though the FBI's affidavit noted several of the indictees did expend some of the ammo through target practice in rural Washington.

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

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