FBI: Militia-style group surveilled Capitol weeks after riot

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — A Virginia man charged with joining the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol told an undercover FBI agent that he belonged to a militia-style group and coordinated “surveillance efforts” on the same building more than a month after the riot, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday.

The filing, which accompanied a criminal complaint against Fi Duong, doesn’t specify why he and an associate wanted to surveil the Capitol for weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection. But it says an undercover agent attended meetings of Duong’s group and that investigators intercepted encrypted communications about post-riot surveillance work.

“How do we feel about an Intel run around the Capitol tonight?” an unnamed associate asked Duong during a Feb. 13 exchange on the encrypted messaging platform. “Fewer of them out. Posture may be lowered. Good opportunity to expose weaknesses.”

“Poke and prod. But have a legitimate reason to go. Visit a restaurant or something. Get something cheap. Walk around a bit,” Duong responded, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.

The same associate was seen driving around the U.S. Capitol after telling the group on April 2 that he planned to conduct surveillance on the building. He later said he got rid of surveillance footage that he took, but that Duong still had it, the agent said.

Duong is one of more than 520 federal defendants charged in the Capitol riot so far. The FBI has linked dozens of them to far-right extremist groups, including several members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who are charged with conspiring to mount a coordinated attack on Jan. 6.

Duong isn’t charged with plotting any violence, however, and prosecutors didn’t seek his pretrial detention after he was arrested on Friday. He was freed after his initial court appearance.

Sabrina Shroff, an assistant federal public defender who represented Duong at the hearing, declined to comment on the government’s allegations.

A June 30 complaint charges Duong with disorderly conduct, obstruction of an official proceeding, and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.

The unsealed court filing says Duong’s first contact with undercover investigators occurred on the morning of Jan. 6, when he and the associate introduced themselves to an undercover police officer near Freedom Plaza in Washington. Duong asked if the officer was a “patriot” and called himself an “operator.”

A week after the riot, the officer introduced Duong to an undercover FBI agent who later attended group meetings at Duong’s home in Alexandria, a Washington suburb, the agent’s affidavit says.

The group called themselves “a Bible study” but also talked about firearms training events, the FBI said. During a Feb. 12 meeting, Duong discussed a Virginia secession movement that he said would be peaceful, according to the affidavit.

A man whom Duong described as a member of the Three Percenters far-right militia movement addressed a group meeting on March 20, the affidavit said. Duong said his loosely affiliated, unnamed group was similar to a militia based in northern Virginia but that his group’s mission was different because they “can’t be out in the open” and needed to be “a little bit more cloak and dagger,” the agent wrote.

Duong said he went to the Jan. 6 rally in Washington alone and dressed in all black to look like a “member of Antifa,” referring to the anti-fascist activists who often gather at protests, the affidavit said.

“He also said he did not necessarily approve of actions taken on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol and that it probably did more to hurt President Trump than to help him,” the FBI agent wrote.

In May and in June, the undercover agent and Duong discussed making and testing Molotov cocktails, according to the affidavit. It says Duong repeatedly talked about engaging in violence against groups that don’t share his views.

“My goal here is to outline the current ‘state of play’ in what could be called the second American Civil war,” he said in a post shared with his group.

Court papers don’t disclose Duong’s age. They say his aliases include “Monkey King” and “Jim.”

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