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FBI Informant Instrumental In FBI Launching Investigation Into Conspiracy To Kidnap Whitmer Testifies

GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — FBI informant Dan Chappel detailed an alleged 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor over her COVID-19 regulations on Friday.

Chappel, a key witness in the government’s case to prove four men took part in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, took the stand on Friday. Chappel was instrumental in beginning the FBI investigation that led to the arrest of the four men.

In March 2020, Chappel, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, joined the Michigan militia group Wolverine Watchmen while looking for a pro-2nd Amendment community with which he could practice firearms training. Once in the group, he discovered members of the militia making threats against law enforcement, which he reported to a friend who worked as a police officer. Chappel was contacted by the FBI and agreed to become an informant for the government a week later.

Chappel was paid during the course of his work for the FBI, though he said the money was far less than what he makes working for the U.S. Postal Service. The FBI also bought Chappel items such as a phone and laptop, and the government gave him some compensation when he said he was forced to move after a member of the Wolverine Watchmen found out where he lived.

Prosecutors played numerous recordings from Chappel’s time working as an informant for the FBI during court on Friday. Assistant U.S. attorney Nils Kessler spent roughly four hours questioning Chappel before court recessed for the day with still more clips to go through when trial resumes on Monday. Kessler said he expects Chappel’s testimony to be the longest of any government witness in the trial.

The federal government has charged Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr., Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris with taking part in a conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer and hold her hostage over restrictive COVID-19 measures. Two men, Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin, have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy.

Prosecutors on Friday played recordings from a June 20, 2020, meeting in the basement of the Vac Shack, a business in the Grand Rapids area. At the time, Fox was living in the basement of the store. Chappel, wearing a recorder, attended the meeting alongside Fox, Garbin, and several others.

During the meeting, Fox said, “I think we need to be actively staging and planning things,” referring to fighting what he viewed as tyrannical actions taken by state governors. In another recording, Fox told the group that “amongst all this chaos there is a lot of opportunity,” referring to the mass protests and riots that had ravaged major U.S. cities following the murder of George Floyd. He floated the idea of burning lots of police vehicles to cull the resources of law enforcement.

At a militia field training exercise in Wisconsin in July, Chappel recorded conversations with various militia members and Barry Croft, an associate of Fox who was not an official member of the Wolverine Watchmen.

During one exchange, Croft stated that he did not want to see people killed, but, “unfortunately, bad decisions have put us in a place where eggs have to be broken.” In another recording, Croft said, “I’m looking forward to a cold, hard winter. I want to bring the ruckus. I’m sick of being on our heels, man.”

During the investigation, Chappel had multiple meetings and conversations with Caserta. Chappel admitted to fearing Caserta and said that whenever he met with Caserta, Chappel made sure to put have a clear path to the door for a quick escape if the other man decided to get violent.

In one message in a group chat that prosecutors shared, Caserta said that the group should target Whitmer’s “handlers,” claiming that the Michigan governor was just a “servant.” “I want Zionist banker blood,” Caserta said.

Chappel traveled with Fox, Croft, and other militia members and undercover FBI agents and informants on a “recon” mission on September 12 and 13 to observe Whitmer’s cottage in Elk Rapids, Michigan. During the outing, the group tested out messaging tactics by flashing a light across a nearby lake and, according to Chappel, came up with a rough plan for extracting the governor and boating her out into Lake Michigan.

Defense attorneys will get a chance to cross-examine Chappel after the prosecution wraps up with its witness next week. Defense attorneys have argued that agents and informants with the FBI entrapped their clients, organizing and funding the several events that brought the group together.

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