NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y (WKBW) — In December 2018, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task force arrested 28-year-old Jeffrey Richards and raided his Packard Court Apartment in Niagara Falls using a search warrant. Several officers became ill from the raid and haz-mat crews had to be called.
Richards was not in the residence at the time of the raid and was arrested while driving a rented vehicle. Law enforcement said a loaded .45 caliber pistol was recovered from the vehicle.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, police seized the following:
- Over 100 grams of a mixture and substance containing acetyl fentanyl, a Schedule I controlled substance.
- Over 40 grams of a mixture and substance containing propanamide (fentanyl)
- Alprazolam, a Schedule IV controlled substance
- Various drug packaging and processing materials, including scales, baggies, and razor blades
- Various drug paraphernalia
- Five bolt-action rifles
- Two shotguns
- One Taser
- A large amount of various ammunition
- Several commercial fireworks
- One suspected improvised explosive device.
In addition, officers also recovered Nazi-inspired materials including a copy of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf; and a leather jacket for a not-affiliated group of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club based in Niagara Falls.
Richards was ordered held without bail and is in the Niagara County Jail waiting for trial (no date scheduled yet). If convicted on the charges alleged in the criminal complaint, Richards could be sentenced to serve life in prison.
"In a sense, he is being considered a terrorist and he is not," said defense attorney Michael Stachowski.
Stachowski has filed motions in federal court to suppress evidence. He is also working to challenge the search warrant for Richards' apartment claiming it was based on unreliable information from confidential informants.
"All they caught was a slow fellow who was playing with fireworks," added the attorney.
During an interview with 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly, Stachowski said Richards was a "follower" who was easily led by friends.
Those friends, said the attorney, stored drugs in Richards' apartment; gave him Nazi-inspired materials that were kept inside a box located in Richard's bedroom closet; encouraged him to join an offshoot of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club that formed in Niagara Falls after the federal prosecution of the North Tonawanda club leaders; and encouraged Richards to pose for "gag photos" while giving the Nazi salute.
"I think he is a harmless guy. After the way I talk with him, he is very peaceful" added Stachowski. The attorney said he plans to call some of Richards' friends to testify.
As to the charges of having an explosive device, Stachowski said, "What he had was some fireworks wrapped in duct tape that we don't believe is a bomb."
The FBI claimed in court documents that it learned that Richards was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who acquires explosive materials and objects for bomb-making purposes. "Some of these explosives were in the shape of a ball with nails inside, wrapped in muffler tape, and have a green fuse on top," said the FBI affidavit, which added, "Richards keeps these bombs at his residence."
Oral arguments for the suppression motions are scheduled for April.
While the defense attorney does not believe his client is a "terrorist," he does think the now 29-year-old man needs further psychiatric evaluation.
"His mother told me he is bipolar but that he also hear voices, one of which is the "Joker" - that he had a tattoo put on," said Stachowski.