URBANA, Ill. – The federal grand jury in Springfield today returned a superseding indictment that charges Michael Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; Michael McWhorter, 29; and, Ellis Mack, 18, all of Clarence, Ill., with additional charges. The four men were previously indicted in April and charged with possession of a machine gun. They were arrested and charged with the initial offense in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on March 13, 2018.
The superseding indictment includes the prior indicted charge of possession of a machine gun from October 2017 up to and including Feb. 27, 2018. In addition, the superseding indictment charges the four with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats and violence, an offense known as the Hobbs Act. Hari, McWhorter and Morris are also charged with attempted arson. Hari is also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.
The indictment alleges that the four men conspired from August 2017 to March 10, 2018, to affect commerce by robbery and extortion, by means of actual or threatened force, violence, and fear. According to the indictment, around August 2017, the conspirators formed a militia group that eventually identified itself as the “White Rabbits.” The group obtained materials used to make explosives, provided weapons and uniforms to group members, and assigned ranks to its members. These and other items belonging to the militia group were kept in a building located in Clarence.
On multiple occasions, the indictment alleges the conspirators met in Clarence and agreed to perform what they referred to as “jobs” or criminal acts to promote the conspiracy and to fund the group. They traveled together from Clarence to the locations of their jobs and sometimes used rented vehicles to avoid detection by law enforcement.
The indictment cites several acts allegedly committed to further the conspiracy, including:
- Robbing or attempting to rob Walmart stores, including but not limited to stores in Watseka, Ill., on Dec. 4, 2017, and Mt. Vernon, Ill., on or about Dec. 17, 2017;
- Robbing or attempting to rob individuals suspected of being involved in drug trafficking, including but not limited to individuals in Ambia, Ind., on or about Dec. 16, 2017;
- Damaging or attempting to damage Canadian National Railway railroad tracks located near Effingham, Ill., by an explosive device on or about Jan. 7, 2018, and then attempting to extort money from the railroad by threatening additional attempts to damage the tracks if the railroad did not pay a ransom; and,
- Planting materials that could be used to make explosives devices on the property of a person in Clarence, on or about Feb. 8, 2018, in an attempt to deflect law enforcement suspicion from the conspirators to the property owner.
The indictment charges Hari, McWhorter and Morris with attempted arson related to an alleged attempt to damage by fire and explosive the Women’s Health Practice, in Champaign, Ill., on or about Nov. 7, 2017.
The indictment alleges Hari, having a previous felony conviction in Illinois, possessed four AR-style platform rifles with no serial number and four 12 gauge shotguns.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Springfield Division; FBI Minneapolis Division; University of Illinois Police Department; Ford County Sheriff’s Office; Champaign Police Department; Illinois State Police; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller is representing the government on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Urbana Division, Central District of Illinois, working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.
The men will make their respective appearances for arraignment on the superseding indictment in federal court in Urbana on a date to be determined by the U.S. Clerk of the Court.
The men have been ordered to remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.