Undercover agent fooled Brown allies
Man called 'Dutch' befriended them
By Margot Sanger-Katz
October 20. 2007 12:21AM
The federal agent who arrested Ed and Elaine Brown on the porch of their Plainfield home spent more than a day visiting the couple a few weeks before the arrest, according to the man who introduced him to the tax-protesting couple.
In a radio interview yesterday, Shaun Kranish, an Illinois supporter of the Browns who founded the pro-Brown website makethestand.com, described his months-long relationship with a man who described himself as a "security consultant" and went by the nickname "Dutch."
According to Ed Brown, Dutch was part of the team of federal marshals who arrested him and his wife Oct. 4 in an undercover operation. Brown described his arrest to Kranish during a recorded phone call Kranish made to Brown at the Ohio prison where he is serving a 63-month sentence. Brown said that Dutch quickly "swarmed" him and wrestled him to the ground. Then another marshal shocked him with a Taser, Brown said.
"How come you brought them guys down to me?" Brown asked Kranish during the call.
According to U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier, who has not shared any details on the size, nature, or members of the group, the Browns were arrested without incident.
Kranish was reticent about sharing many details of his relationship with Dutch on Thursday. But yesterday, he decided to give a full account of his dealings with the man, which began months before the couple's ultimate arrest. On the show, Kranish said that he'd kept detailed records, including audio recordings, of his encounters with Dutch.
"I absolutely want to get the story out," Kranish said on yesterday's Ed Brown Under Siege radio show. "I wanted to get it out from the beginning, but I had to talk to my family first."
Yesterday, Monier said he would not comment on "anything Mr. Kranish has said, or might say, on the internet."
Brian Levin, a professor at California State University at San Bernardino who trains law enforcement agencies on how to engage with extremists, said that Kranish's description of the undercover operation, in broad strokes, sounded credible. But he also said that Kranish's account ought to be viewed skeptically. Criminal informants, even unwitting ones, tend to be unreliable sources of information, he said.
"Informants, either witting or unwitting, are not the most stable on Earth," Levin said. "They usually have money issues, relationship issues and issues related to self-aggrandizement."
According to Kranish, he was first contacted by Dutch in a cell phone call in late April or early May. In that conversation, Dutch asked if they could chat online, indicating that such conversations were less likely to be intercepted by authorities. After months spent chatting online, Dutch met Kranish at a South Bend, Ind., gas station on Sept. 24, Kranish said. He showed Kranish a scar on his shin that matched a story he'd told about a bullet wound, and showed him a Georgia driver's license with the name Daniel Farrioli. (Kranish offered this spelling of the name on the show, but said he was not certain it was correct.)
The two men talked for nearly six hours at the gas station, Kranish said. At the end, Dutch offered Kranish, who does computer work, a job helping him copy and analyze information on the hard drive of one of his clients. Doing the job involved driving to Long Island, Kranish said. Two days later, Kranish packed up and embarked on a cross-country drive with Dutch.
"I didn't want to spend a lot of time to go far away, especially with a guy I had just met, but I was intrigued by the information he had and the knowledge, I suppose, he was willing to offer me," Kranish said in the radio interview. "So that's really the main reason. And then of course, money was involved too."
The drive took several days, thanks in part to a turn "Dutch" missed that landed them in Michigan. Kranish said they two talked throughout their travels and that Kranish learned Dutch's life story, though he did not share the details during the broadcast. Dutch paid for Kranish's meals and hotel rooms.
"I don't know how much of it was true. Maybe most of it was true. You know, obviously, he left out the part that he was working for the feds, or whoever he was working for," Kranish said.
"He's been pouring out his life stories, everything to me, gaining my trust. He's working on my ego, telling me how good I am for what I'm doing," Kranish said.
When the duo arrived at their destination in Long Island, Dutch told Kranish that his customer was no longer being cooperative and they'd have to cancel the job.
Then Dutch suggested visiting the Browns. Kranish said he initially said no, but when Dutch didn't push the issue, he decided it would be safe to take him to Plainfield.
"Obviously, I wanted to spend as much time with Ed and Elaine as I could," Kranish said. "They're such wonderful people."
They drove to Plainfield and were invited in by the Browns. Kranish, Dutch and Ed and Elaine Brown talked all night long, Kranish said, until Kranish departed for a nap at about 2 Saturday afternoon.
"I slept for I think like three hours, and I think while I slept, I think Ed opened up to Dutch and showed him, like, his defenses and whatever else, maybe shared his plans," Kranish said "I don't know. I think what they were after, I think they wanted to see what they were really up against."
In an interview Thursday, Monier said that the conditions the marshals found at the house matched their expectations before the arrests. A recent press release described numerous explosive devices inside and outside the house, booby traps and a large cache of weapons and ammunition.
In his phone conversation with Kranish this week, Brown said that he had been concerned that Dutch's October visit could be a "suspected sting." He said he called two friends before the encounter, shared his suspicions, and promised to call them back when it was over. One of those friends, Bernie Bastian of Weare, said after the arrest that Brown told him the visitors were coming over to do some "exercises" with the Browns.
Kranish described Dutch as a large man. Fred Smart, a prominent tax protesting blogger and radio host who interviewed Kranish on the show, described him as 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighing more than 300 pounds, though he did not say where he got this information.
Kranish said that he's been upset since learning that the man he introduced to the Browns turned out to be a marshal, but he said Dutch was clearly a professional, well-informed about Kranish's interests and susceptibilities, and skilled in deception.
"Dutch fooled not only me, he fooled everyone he came in contact with. Even he had Ed fooled enough where Ed probably showed him stuff that he shouldn't have," Kranish said.
The Browns' arrest in October ended a months-long standoff. The Browns were convicted of a series of tax-related crimes in January, but had evaded capture for months by holing up in their fortified home and threatening a shootout if marshals came to arrest them. They are currently serving 63-month sentences in federal prisons, though they may face more charges.
During the standoff, they invited visitors from various parts of the country and from various ideological backgrounds. This open-door policy, Monier said after their arrest, proved their undoing.