Militia leader accused of trying to extort his own members, pretending to be Mexican cartel
STEVENS CO., Wash. — The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office has issued a nationwide arrest warrant for a man accused of threatening members of his own militia group with notes claiming to be from a Mexican drug cartel.
The warrant accuses James Russell Bolton, Jr. of multiple counts of extortion. Several years ago, Bolton ran for sheriff in Stevens County.
According to court documents, investigators first responded to two cases in March where threatening letters were left on properties in Stevens County, demanding either the use of property or payment. “The author of the letters claimed to be an organization from outside of the United States and insinuated that it was likely from a Mexican cartel.”
Investigators did a Google search for the name listed on the letter. “The results were the name of a singer from Mexico and the company is a food distribution services [sic] in California,” the warrant states.
The court documents say one of the property owners found a letter taped to their fence, demanding $10,000 or that “physical harm will come to their family.” Instead of leaving money, the home owner left a letter containing blue dye, which was collected by an SUV caught on video.
Another property owner reported getting a letter in the mail, saying the letter writer would acquire the victim’s property unless they paid $250,000 within 15 days. According to court records, “the author of the letter indicated that if they did not comply, they would be taken and killed. It also indicated that they would visit their daughter and her children in CA and eliminate their neighbors if they did not meet their demands.”
The letter warns them not to call police and “eludes to being part of a criminal enterprise or gang.” The name on the letter was Alessio Don De Grande and the property owner “thought it might be a Mexican cartel or gang.”
In all, investigators took three reports like this in the Clayton, WA area and all three had the same name as the one on the typed letter.
In mid-March, one property owner came forward and brought up the name of his friend Russell Bolton. Bolton was described as being the leader of a militia group called the Stevens County Assembly. That man told investigators that Bolton described receiving threats recently as well.
That led investigators to reach out to Bolton, who came to the sheriff’s office to talk with them about the threats.
In that conversation, Bolton told investigators he received death threats, but that he wasn’t concerned because that was “common in his work.”
Investigators asked Bolton if someone might be targeting the Assembly. He told them the Assembly had only about $900 in their account. He identified another man as someone who might be upset because that man wasn’t allowed to speak at a recent meeting.
In the court documents, investigators reference Bolton’s military background, his counter-intelligence training and the fact he’s worked as a private investigator in several states. Bolton apparently told them that he “currently trains members of the Stevens County Assembly in hand to hand combat.”
Investigators tracked down several leads and write in court documents about disputes between Bolton and others.
In early April, a man called investigators and said that he heard Bolton had “lost his mind” and tried to kill another Assembly member. That led investigators to a police report in Spokane.
In that report, a man said Bolton came to his house and pushed him down the stairs, causing him to hit his head and bleed profusely. When he got up, the man said Bolton tried to put a plastic bag over his face and “even punched his nose with one hand during the scuffle.” After the struggle, Bolton told the man that “they” had kidnapped his wife and demanded $100,000 for her release.
The victim told investigators Bolton pointed at a calendar and chose a date that the victim could get Bolton the money.
The victim was taken to the hospital, then lied to the hospital and then police about what happened because he believed Bolton’s story.
The victim told police he sold off his stock portfolio and had a check ready to give to Bolton. He said it was the majority of his life savings, but that he didn’t want anything to happen to Bolton’s wife. In the days following, Bolton emailed saying his wife had been released but that the kidnappers were still demanding payment. That’s when the victim started questioning Bolton’s story.
Court records show a copy of the email Bolton allegedly sent to the victim. It reads, in part, “We are witnessing the end of the U.S. as we have known it… WE ARE NOT FINISHED MY FRIEND! WE have both seen the dark side of this now and that should make us stronger. We are survivors.”
Bolton then instructs the man to change his email and phone number and not to tell anyone what happened. He says they are being monitored and that they need to “go dark” for awhile.
In another email, reportedly sent from Bolton to the entire Stevens County Assembly, he writes to warn of three men who are tracking them. Then he says, “WA state is being over-run by socialist/liberals and there doesn’t seem to be any organized force who will stop them.”
He continues by telling them that he is relocating.
Investigators conclude that all of the victims who received threatening letters are members of the Stevens County Assembly, run by Bolton.
The warrant asks for a $30,000 bail on five counts of extortion and one count of attempted first-degree theft.
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