U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that Lonnie G. Vernon and Karen L. Vernon pled guilty in federal court in Anchorage to conspiracy to murder federal officials.
Lonnie Vernon, 56, and Karen Vernon, 66, both of Salcha, Alaska, pled guilty in front of U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan.
According to the plea agreements filed with the court, the Vernons made plans to murder federal officials in response to an ongoing civil tax case that was pending against them for their failure to pay taxes to the IRS over the course of many years. Due to their failure to pay taxes, the United States filed a claim against the Vernons in federal court alleging that they owed approximately $165,750. The civil tax case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline, and the investigation into the amount owed was conducted by an IRS revenue officer.
In responding to the claims made by the United States, the Vernons argued, among other things, that they were not citizens or taxpayers of the United States. On December 28, 2010, Judge Beistline issued an order dismissing a counterclaim filed by the Vernons. The order stated, in part, that the “Vernon’s challenges to the promulgation of IRS regulations is...misplaced and irrelevant. The remaining arguments made by the Vernons are frivolous and have been uniformly rejected by the courts.”
In April 2010, the Vernons filed a motion to dismiss the complaint filed by the United States. Their motion to dismiss was denied by Judge Beistline on June 25, 2010. In February 2011, the United States filed a motion for summary judgment with the court and attached, as evidence, a declaration of the IRS revenue officer, detailing the actions taken by her during the performance of her official duties. Judge Beistline issued an order requiring the Vernons to respond to the motion for summary judgment by March 7, 2011.
Beginning on or about February 4, 2011, Lonnie and Karen Vernon developed a plan and agreed to murder U.S. District Court Judge Beistline and the IRS revenue officer. The Vernons entered into this conspiracy to kill in order to retaliate against and on account of actions Judge Beistline and the IRS revenue officer had taken as part of their jobs and in their official capacities. Between February 4, 2011 and March 10, 2011, Lonnie and Karen Vernon made plans to purchase a silencer to use to kill Judge Beistline, members of his family, and the IRS revenue officer. The Vernons researched and obtained addresses of Judge Beistline’s family members and provided directions to those addresses to a confidential informant. On March 10, 2011, the Vernons purchased a pistol equipped with a silencer and two hand grenades. The Vernons intended to use their firearms, silencer, and hand grenades to murder Judge Beistline and the IRS revenue officer in retaliation for and on account of the performance of their official duties as officers and employees of the United States.
The law provides for a maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder federal officials of up to life imprisonment, five years’ supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based on the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendants.
Both defendants will remain in custody pending sentencing. U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan scheduled sentencing for November 14, 2012, in Anchorage.
Ms. Loeffler commends the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Alaska State Troopers; and the Fairbanks Police Department for their coordination and cooperation leading to the successful prosecution of the Vernons in this case.