Del. man was leader in plot to kidnap Michigan governor, FBI says

Barry G. Croft of Bear, Delaware is accused of allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Facebook)

Barry G. Croft of Bear, Delaware is accused of allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Facebook)

The Delaware man accused by the FBI of helping lead a plot with five Michigan men to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and put her on trial for “treason” waived a bail hearing Tuesday during a federal court hearing in Wilmington.

Barry G. Croft Jr., 44, allegedly constructed improvised explosive devices that were tested for possible use in the scheme to abduct the Michigan governor, according to the FBI’s 15-page criminal complaint that was filed Oct. 6.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Hall accepted Croft’s waiver during the video hearing and ordered him transferred to the Western District of Michigan for further federal court proceedings.

Croft, who has been detained at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington since his Oct. 7 arrest at his home in Bear, did not speak during the five-minute hearing, and was represented by federal Assistant Public Defender Conor Wilson.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Croft has a lengthy criminal history in Delaware, including a series of convictions in the mid-1990s for possession of a firearm during a felony, assault, theft and burglary. He spent more than four years in prison or at a community corrections facility.

Gov. John Carney pardoned Croft in April 2019, which was sought “for employment purposes,’’ state records show. Media reports have said he is a self-employed trucker.

Carney declined to speak to WHYY about his pardon of Croft, but spokesperson Jonathan Starkey said in a written statement that Carney signed the pardon after a recommendation from the Board of Pardons that was “unopposed” in 2018 by the office of then-Attorney General Matt Denn.

Starkey also pointed to the seriousness of the charge of conspiring to abduct a sitting governor.

“The charges brought in Michigan are disturbing and everyone charged in this plot should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,’’ Starkey said. “This is also another warning sign about the growing threat of violence and radicalization in our politics.”

Croft waived his bail hearing while prosecutors and agents in Michigan were outlining the charges against three other co-defendants during a bail hearing there.

Among the new information made public Tuesday in Michigan were allegations that the alleged plotters talked about putting Whitmer in a boat and leaving her in the middle of Lake Michigan, and about “taking out” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Those allegations were not disclosed in the FBI affidavit.

FBI: Croft used ‘chemistry set’ to construct explosives for plot

Croft’s alleged role is detailed frequently throughout the FBI charging document.

Authorities said that earlier this year, Croft and defendant Adam Fox communicated electronically and “agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.”

On June 6, the federal arrest affidavit says, Croft and Fox met with about 13 others from several states in Dublin, Ohio to talk about “creating a society” that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient. A confidential FBI informant who recorded the meeting was among those in attendance.

The group discussed ways to accomplish their mission, “from peaceful endeavors to violent actions,’’ the complaint said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

They mentioned Whitmer as leading a government that was violating the U.S. Constitution and some “talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor.” Fox suggested they reach out to a Michigan-based militia group to recruit members.

Fox coordinated with Croft to meet with militia members, including once in June at a Second Amendment rally at the Michigan State Capitol. Fox told members he needed “200 men” to storm the capital and take hostages, including Whitmer.

Croft, Fox and three other suspects also attended what authorities called a “field training exercise’’ in early July in Cambria, Wisconsin. Croft and a militia member “attempted to construct an improvised explosive device [IED], using black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” and another device using similar components, the affidavit said.

Neither device detonated, however, according to the affidavit, which relied on video provided by an informant.

On July 18, Croft was part of a group that met in Ohio and “discussed attacking a Michigan state police facility.”

Croft isn’t mentioned in subsequent planning activities until the weekend of Sept. 12-13, when authorities said he attended a training exercise in Luther, Michigan. He “brought what was referred to as his ‘chemistry set,’ which included components for an IED,” the complaint said.

The informant reported that Croft constructed the IED “by removing the cap from a commercial firework, adding additional black powder, and wrapping the device in pennies and electrical tape as shrapnel. During the exercise, the group set the device in a clearing surrounded by human silhouette targets, and Croft detonated it to test its anti-personnel effectiveness.”

During that exercise, Croft was among several men that Fox “briefed’’ on the plan to kidnap Whitmer and was selected to be part of a team that conducted nighttime surveillance on her vacation home that weekend.

Croft asked Fox if members of the team were armed, and learning that they were, “suggested they take the opportunity to conduct an act of violence that night,” the affidavit said. Instead, others talked him out of “this notion,’’ so Croft “decided to wait for a better time.”

During the surveillance operation, Croft and Fox “discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the vacation home,” the affidavit said. “They stopped at a highway bridge on the way, and Fox and an undercover agent “inspected the underside of the bridge for places to seat an explosive charge.”

When Fox remarked that Whitmer “…loves the power she has right now” and “she has no checks and balances at all,’’ Croft added, “All good things must come to an end.”

That same weekend, Croft was part of the group in attendance when Fox said “they were the group that was going to kidnap” Whitmer, the complaint said. An undercover federal agent at the same meeting remarked that it would cost about $4,000 for the explosives that Fox and Croft wanted to use to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home.

During a taped Sept. 30 call with an informant, Fox said Croft was one of those aware of the $4,000 cost for the explosives and during a later encrypted chat message with the informant, Fox confirmed he had bought an 800,000-volt Taser for the kidnapping.

The complaint said Croft was in Delaware by early October and was not planning on attending the scheduled Oct. 7 meeting where the plotters would pay for and obtain the explosives and other tactical gear,

Croft was taken into custody late that evening at his home on Daniels Court, located in a subdivision off U.S. 40. His apprehension occurred “without incident,” said Kim Reeves of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware. State police assisted federal agents with his apprehension.

Croft had an initial appearance Friday before U.S. District Judge Christopher Burke, who ordered him detained pending the outcome of the bail hearing.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal