Detective Matt returns to share his more than year-long undercover investigation into a fringe environmental group with dangerous designs on an upcoming political convention. This is the kind of story we never get to hear. Told by a detective who mastered the art of disappearing from his own life in order to thwart a violent plot.
The Detective: Detective Matt joined the police department in the town where this story takes place shortly after graduating college. He worked in patrol at first and then moved to the street crimes unit before he started as an undercover narcotics investigator. After he worked this case, he went to a DEA task force and worked to infiltrate a major political party conference. He received a medal of valor for his efforts. He had been a deputy in another state, but recently retired from law enforcement.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:03] Hey, Small Town Fam, we have a fascinating, deeply personal case for you today. For starters, the first thing Detective Matt said about this case when he sat down with us was, it was the worst year of his life. As he offered up details of going deep undercover, all I could think was how this assignment he’d taken on sounded like a season of Homeland or a Tom Clancy novel. Except that in Matt’s case, it was very, very real and the potential for life threatening danger hung in the air for him every minute of every day for over a year. It was not just the danger of Matt getting found out, but the potential danger of hundreds of people getting killed if Matt’s mission failed. We, at Small Town Dicks also wanted to know what kind of toll stress like that takes on a man and his family. This is Deep Cover.
[Small Town Dicks intro]
Yeardley: [00:01:04] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:01:06] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:01:06] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:01:07] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:01:09] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:01:11] Dave and I are identical twins and retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:01:15] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:01:21] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:01:28] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:01:35] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:01:40] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved.
Dave: [00:01:48] Out of respect for what they’ve been through.
In Unison: [00:01:50] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:57] Today on Small town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:02:03] Good morning, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:02:04] Good morning, David. So happy to see you. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:02:08] Hello, team.
Yeardley: [00:02:09] Hello, you. We have the one and only Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:02:13] Hey, how’s it going?
Yeardley: [00:02:14] Everybody’s at the table. I’m very excited. Small Town Fam, we are so pleased to welcome back to the podcast, one of our new fan favorites, Detective Matt.
Matt: [00:02:24] Good morning. Thanks for having me back.
Yeardley: [00:02:25] We’re so happy to have you. And I have to say we’re here in South Florida, we’re actually meeting in person for the very first time. Last time that we had you on the podcast, we did it over Zoom, of course. It was the case we ended up calling Politically Incorrect, but it’s so much better to sit down with you in person.
Matt: [00:02:45] Definitely.
Yeardley: [00:02:46] So, Matt, we’re ready to hear about the worst year of your life.
Matt: [00:02:51] Yes, this case pretty much took everything out of me. It was very trying and it was a 24/7 case for a little over a year, I had to be a different person. I went into undercover narcotics work and I was young and everybody was like, “Oh, well, what do you want to do?” “I want to do a deep cover case.” That’s what everybody wants to do, see how deep you can go. It’s becoming a bit of a dying art anyway. It’s not happening a lot anymore.
Yeardley: [00:03:15] How come?
Matt: [00:03:16] Social media.
Yeardley: [00:03:17] Is that because basically with social media, we don’t have any privacy anymore? We’re constantly photobombing our lives, throwing everything up on every gram of every kind?
Matt: [00:03:28] Exactly. Kind of deep cover you’ll see now are people that will go with the FBI, and you’re traveling to the other side of the country or to another country altogether, and you’re there for two to three days, and then you come home. There’s no getting embedded. The case we’re going to talk about, in some ways, I got very lucky because they broke their own policies. I had to convince them that, “Man, we’re the bestest of friends,” because if they follow their policies to the T, I’m done. There is nothing I can do to prevent them figuring out that, “Wait, he’s not who he says he is.”
Yeardley: [00:04:03] You mean the criminals broke their own codes, basically to bring you into their fold?
Matt: [00:04:08] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:04:08] Interesting. And, Matt, you were giving us a little background about the case that I think is important to share with the listener. You were asked to embed yourself with a radical offshoot of a legitimate environmental group, because you had some intelligence about a plot to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, which was being held in your town. For the uninitiated people who don’t live in the States, those who didn’t take civics, these political conventions are held by both Republicans and Democrats every four years to pick their respective presidential candidates, and they’re huge. So, Matt, how did you first learn about this group and its plan?
Matt: [00:04:53] I was on the DEA Task Force. And the DNC, the Democratic National Convention, they planned that out pretty much after one ends, they’re already planning where the next one is going to be. Cities bid on it. So, the city I was working for, they got the bid. And pretty quickly after, that’s when, “Hey, something bad is supposed to happen.”
Yeardley: [00:05:13] That fast?
Matt: [00:05:14] Yeah. A couple of people came to me and said, “Hey, would you be willing to at least see if you can get embedded somewhat and just see what the mindset is and what the feeling is?” So, I went to their meetings. It was a RAN meeting, which is the Rainforest Action Network and the Greenpeace meeting, and became close with people in the Rainforest Action Network. In the city, the person who was running took a liking to me.
Yeardley: [00:05:41] What’s the name of this guy who’s running these groups?
Matt: [00:05:44] Sam. He and I started hanging out. And my back story was orphan, grew up, got a trust fund, and was living on a sailboat.
Paul: [00:05:54] Somehow you approach Sam to where now you guys are interacting. How does that approach occur?
Matt: [00:06:00] I go to the meeting. And these aren’t big meetings. Average meeting was like 10 minutes and it’s in this brick room. You had the Rainforest Action Network there. You had Greenpeace in this building, and so everybody kind of combined together.
Yeardley: [00:06:12] So like an office building?
Matt: [00:06:14] Yeah, but warehouse style almost. Only 10 to 15 people would be at a meeting at a time. Basically, I just went up to Sam, “Hey, I like what you talked about,” trying to get more information kind of thing. We went out and got beer and pizza that night, talked some more. First time I’d ever had egg on pizza.
Yeardley: [00:06:31] [laughs]
Paul: [00:06:33] Never heard of that.
Matt: [00:06:34] It was a big thing they did, and it was funny because actually it didn’t taste that bad. I kind of liked it. As the case grew on and emotions and all that got involved, now if I eat egg on pizza, I’ll immediately get sick.
Paul: [00:06:45] The[?] association.
Matt: [00:06:46] Yeah, exactly.
Yeardley: [00:06:47] Fascinating. You as Matt, starting to go undercover, was anybody allowed to go to these meetings or was it weird to see a new face like yours in that meeting?
Matt: [00:06:57] It was definitely weird. I mean, they were a close-knit group, but anybody was allowed to go. And so, I wasn’t pushy at all. Long story short, I stood back in the corner, didn’t approach anybody, constantly had that standoffish role. This was during Occupy, when Occupy was very popular.
Yeardley: [00:07:13] Occupy Wall Street?
Matt: [00:07:15] Yes. We had a group in my city that was occupying an area, and I just didn’t know really anything about protests since the 1960s, anything I just read in books. One of the things I did early on was go to YouTube and start watching every video about the beliefs, about personality types, and all that. Most of the people involved seem to identify as a group, but they have trouble socially, basically. I was like, “”All right, I need to fit the part.” That’s what I did. I stood back in the corner. Then, like I said, the first meeting, I went up and talked to Sam at the end of the meeting, and he was very much, “Oh, you got to meet Billy. You got to meet Billy. You’re going to love Billy.” It was because I said that I lived on the sailboat, and I do have background sailing, so at least I knew what I was talking about. Billy didn’t get there for about a month. This would have been in about August, I want to say.
Dan: [00:08:03] So you say Billy didn’t get there. Billy’s not local. He’s coming in to help kind of organize and drive this planning?
Matt: [00:08:12] So he actually is local. What I was being told at the time was that he was on a sailboat with kids taking around the Caribbean.
Yeardley: [00:08:20] Did he live on a sailboat too or this was just like a boondoggle where he was on the boat with his family?
Matt: [00:08:26] More of a boondoggle. It wasn’t his family. It was supposed to be a group. I have a feeling since learning a lot more about him later, that’s probably a cover story and that’s not actually what he was doing.
Dave: [00:08:35] Cover stories to cover other stories to cover stories.
Matt: [00:08:38] Yeah.
Dave: [00:08:39] So, was Billy regarded as the leader for a local chapter or is he more of a national guy?
Matt: [00:08:45] He would be a national guy. Basically, there’s the outside group, the media group that everybody’s on TV and then there’s the underground, and he would be part of the underground. He was very, very extreme. The first time we meet, we hit it off. Definite connection right out the gate. I want to say it was like two days later, I go to his house and go to his room, and his whole bedroom was nothing but news clippings or drawings of cops getting beaten or killed.
Yeardley: [00:09:14] Oh, my God.
Matt: [00:09:15] His entire room. His hatred for police was I have yet to ever see anything like it. He was actually a really good artist, but he loved to draw police getting murdered.
Paul: [00:09:25] I’m seeing a parallel here going after the serial predator, the fantasy motivated individual. They can be very visual. They will do drawings, some of them, just like BTK, he would do drawings. There’s almost a violent fantasy, a pathology within Billy that is being exhibited within his room. Really his insight into what his inner fantasies are.
Matt: [00:09:49] That would make perfect sense. One minute, we were just as close as could be, and no joke, we’d get together another time, and he’s making me put my phone somewhere away from me and strip searching me. You never knew who you were going to get.
Paul: [00:10:03] Paranoid.
Matt: [00:10:04] Yeah.
Paul: [00:10:05] Very much so.
Dan: [00:10:06] Is he probing you for your ideology? When he brings you into his room and he’s got all this imagery and these articles on the wall of police being beaten and killed, he’s doing that for a reason. What do you say in a situation like that?
Matt: [00:10:20] You got to think fast, and you got to say something fast, and he’s watching your face. He wants to see how do you respond to that stuff. I think I said, “Man, how did you get this collection together? Wow, you can really draw. This is an awesome job.”
Dan: [00:10:33] Yeah, “This doesn’t bother me at all. I’m interested in it.”
Paul : [00:10:36] Pet the ego.
Matt: [00:10:37] Exactly. Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:10:39] Okay. You start your deep cover investigation by going to this meeting of some well-known and legitimate environmental groups, but it turns out that they’re just a gateway to something much more radical. What’s the name of the group that Billy and Sam are part of?
Matt: [00:10:57] There’s a very radical group called DGR, Deep Green Resistance. You can look them up online. They believe legitimately that we need to go back to when we invented the wheel and nothing after that.
Yeardley: [00:11:09] In terms of industrialization?
Matt: [00:11:11] Correct. They believe we need to do that by any means necessary. And that means bombing, assassinations. They have a book where they talk about it and how to do it. You work in cells, teams of four, sometimes up to six, and one person communicates with another, but then they don’t know about any of the other cells. They don’t know who they are, so they can’t rat on them. Just a very, very dangerous group with strong beliefs. Billy was very progun. But about a week later, he had me go shooting with him to teach me how to use a gun, because he had a big farm that he lived on. He had two houses, one in town, and this other one was his parents and it’s a huge farm. He had me walk down to go put the targets on. That’s one of those ones you’re like, “Am I getting shot in the back today?”
Yeardley: [00:11:50] Oh, you mean Billy told you to go down range and just stick the targets on the tree, so now you have your back to this crazy, unpredictable lunatic?
Matt: [00:12:01] Exactly.
Yeardley: [00:12:01] Oh, my God.
Dave: [00:12:03] Yeah. In law enforcement and all of us have been trained in firearms, safety is the first priority when you’re at the range. Anytime you’re handling a weapon and nobody goes down range at all, everyone goes together. You go together down range, not just one person. So, yeah, that would set off big alarm bells in my head.
Yeardley: [00:12:23] So, Billy says, “Let’s go shooting.” You said you guys did it out at his farm versus the city residence. What’s it like? Are you in the woods? Are you in an open field? Where are you setting up these targets while you’re wondering if you’re going to get shot in the back?
Matt: [00:12:38] So, it is the woods. Actually, he made almost his own range because he had cut down a bunch of trees and then cut some of them like halfway down and put the targets on top of the trees that were halfway down. He was actually quite the lumberjack, to be honest. [Yeardley laughs] And it’s funny. So, it made me think of something. When my agency listens to this, this will be the first time they find out, because if I had mentioned this that I was putting up targets, they’d have pulled me immediately out of it and kicked out of the case, and rightfully so.
Yeardley: [00:13:06] Because it was too risky. Now you’ve crossed the line.
Matt: [00:13:08] Oh, yeah.
Dave: [00:13:09] You’re walking down to throw these targets up.
Matt: [00:13:13] Dear Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Dave: [00:13:15] You feel eyes like [Matt laughs] burning through your back? Did you ever look over your shoulder? “Hey, is he looking at me through an aim point right now or is he just reloading magazines?”
Matt: [00:13:23] It is when you get in that really bad spot that you don’t even want to look bad. What good is it going to do? You just walk and you don’t even want to know what’s going to come. [laughs]
Dave: [00:13:31] I’m not going to feel a thing.
Matt: [00:13:32] Exactly.
Yeardley: [00:13:34] Hopefully it’s a really good shot.
Matt: [00:13:36] [crosstalk] The one I’m saying.[laughs] Again, you don’t know, is he testing you? That’s just part of it. I was shocked, not just from Billy, but from many of the others. The amount of tests that you have to go through, the vetting process was unreal. They would call me up 2 o’clock in the morning, 3 o’ clock in the morning, “Come on, let’s go” and we’re going out and we’re doing something.
Yeardley: [00:13:55] What sort of things would you do at 03:00 AM? The bars are closed.
Matt: [00:13:59] Right. Well, you go to someone’s house, go drinking. There’s a word for it. I think it’s Wheat Pasting, I don’t remember it. Basically, you put like flyers or whatever and you paste them onto stuff.
Yeardley: [00:14:10] Oh, like on telephone poles and stuff?
Matt: [00:14:12] Yeah. We would go around town, do that. A lot of times it was just going over to Billy’s house, not the farmhouse.
Yeardley: [00:14:19] The one in town?
Matt: [00:14:20] Yeah. Sometimes he’d be sitting there doing coke, sometimes just smoking weed.
Yeardley: [00:14:25] So, Billy is out of control. He’s doing drugs. Did he try to get you to do drugs?
Matt: [00:14:30] Yes. Oh, yeah.
Yeardley: [00:14:31] I know undercover agents, you’re not supposed to do that. So, what do you do?
Matt: [00:14:37] I had to get a story out early on and the story worked. I’m kind of surprised it worked, but I told him that I was out west for a little while, met with the shaman, and the shaman told me that I cannot use drugs.
Dan: [00:14:48] Yeah. “Are you asking me to compromise my morals and my commitment?”
Matt: [00:14:52] Exactly.
Yeardley: [00:14:52] I’m sure Billy thought that story is so unbelievable, it must be true. [laughs]
Paul: [00:15:11] The Feds come to you, say, “Hey, we’re worried about this group being extreme and causing havoc at the Democratic National Convention in your town.” You start going to meetings, you meet Sam. Sam’s like, “Oh, hey, I want you to meet the honcho,” and that’s Billy. I imagine it’s difficult for Billy to just go, “You know what? Yeah, you’re a brand-new face. Let’s go hang out.” That’s awkward. You have to massage that relationship and build it. I imagine that would take weeks or months to get to where he’s inviting you over to the house and you guys are going shooting and you guys are eating and having beers with the fellows. How long does it actually take for you to get to a meeting or a planning session where they start actually talking about criminal stuff? You’re like, “Okay, there is a need for me to be here and there’s a need for me to stay embedded with this group.”
Matt: [00:16:08] Billy actually, very quickly was all about violence and had no issue talking about violence, and the need for it, whether it was killing people, derailing trains. I remember New Year’s Eve, three months, four months in, we’re together on New Year’s Eve at somebody’s house. He goes, “You know what we need to do? We need to start bombing ATMs.” That’s where it’s at. “We bomb ATMs, when somebody triggers something, they walk up to it and the ATM explodes. That’s going to hurt the banks more than anything else, because people are going to be scared to go to the ATMs and that will cause the bank to go under.”
Dan: [00:16:41] Because of transaction fees? Not getting the transaction fees?
Matt: [00:16:45] No. Actually having the machine blow up and kill the person.
Dan: [00:16:47] No. People are going to be scared to go and the bank is going to miss out on transaction fees or whatever. I’m joking about the transaction fees, but Billy’s missing the way banks do business, if he thinks blowing up an ATM is going to make the bank go under.
Matt: [00:17:02] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:17:02] Do you know if Billy had been successful in the past about setting bombs that actually killed or maimed people? Do you know if he had killed anyone with his bare hands, anything like that?
Matt: [00:17:14] I do not know of him killing anybody or completing any bombs. I will say Billy’s idea with the ATMs that happened in Australia. And the only person I’ve ever heard talk about that idea was Billy and I know he has to somehow behind it.
Dave: [00:17:30] Billy has his fingers elsewhere?
Matt: [00:17:32] Yeah. I guarantee, because he did. He would travel all the time, just disappear.
Yeardley: [00:17:36] How old is Billy? What’s he look like? What’s his affect?
Matt: [00:17:40] Billy now would be in his early 30s.
Yeardley: [00:17:43] Oh, he’s young.
Matt: [00:17:45] Yes. Skinny, long blonde hair. He’d be considered very good looking.
Yeardley: [00:17:51] Tall, short?
Matt: [00:17:53] Probably about 5;9″, 5’10”.
Yeardley: [00:17:55] Did Billy have a family? Did he have a wife and kids of his own?
Matt: [00:17:59] No, he does not.
Yeardley: [00:18:00] Okay, so he was a loner?
Matt: [00:18:01] Yes, very much so.
Dan: [00:18:03] Do you get any sense of what his background is?
Matt: [00:18:06] So, Billy went to college. He’s actually very, very book smart. Common sense, it’s ground level. But when it comes to book smart, he’s through the roof. He went to a college actually in the same state where the city was and he studied fertilizing chemistry. And so, he learned all different ways to make bombs. He would teach me, “Well, you’re going to use kerosene with this mixture because we want to slow burn on this,” or, “If you want to do a really fast burn, we’re just going to use straight gas.”
Dan: [00:18:37] I’m wondering how he was radicalized. If you’re a champion for the environmental cause, and we all know that if you derail a train, what do trains have? They carry fuel, they carry hazardous chemicals. So, the hypocrisy there of causing a train derailment and potentially an environmental disaster seems to go against what you’re trying to protect.
Matt: [00:19:00] And we did talk about that. The thing is that you have to have some casualties in order for the bigger picture to succeed. While I was in this city, we were targeting Bank of America. That’s who were going after. Reason we were going after Bank of America supposedly was because they give out loans to coal companies that destroy the mountains. Bank of America was having a shareholders meeting at their headquarters. And Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, ALF, which, see, if I remember what ALF stood for. Animal Liberation Front. And then you had Earth First, you had ELF, which is Earth Liberation Front. All these groups came. It was a huge protest, just the protest, Bank of America that interrupted shareholders meeting. The shareholders was in May. This is kind of down the road and I tell you how long it’s taken. Since August, I’m still working on getting vetted in.
[00:19:54] I had an apartment that was funded by the FBI that I lived in, 24/7. I actually would sleep in the living room right underneath the window, just because if anybody was going to shoot up the place, I figured the safest place I could be would be right there because they would shoot over me. Getting followed was typical, so it was intense. So, shareholders meeting, we had all these people come into town and this was my vetting process. I was going to get arrested. What they do for these big protests are the people that are going to get arrested are decided ahead of time and you’re on an arrest team. Just like law enforcement has arrest team that do the arresting, well, this is getting arrested team.
Yeardley: [00:20:30] Wow.
Dave: [00:20:31] I imagine the instructions for a team that’s going to get arrested is, you’re going to be the agitators, you’re going to do a lot of disruption, property damage, confronting police physically, get yourself arrested, do whatever it takes?
Matt: [00:20:48] Correct. We had five or six meetings led by Laura. Laura was from the West Coast, and actually it was kind of famous for some of the stuff she did during Katrina. She did some protest and some violent action during those times.
Yeardley: [00:21:04] Does she work for Rainforest Action Network or she’s like an outside hire?
Matt: [00:21:11] I don’t know this for sure, but I put a lot of money down, she’s getting paid by multiple fronts.
Dave: [00:21:15] She’s like a consultant.
Matt: [00:21:16] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:21:17] A protest consultant.
Dave: [00:21:18] Yeah.
Matt: [00:21:20] Laura always wanted violence. That was where her head was constantly at. She had gone to prison for prior violent acts. Her pride for that was insane.
Yeardley: [00:21:32] What was Laura arrested for?
Matt: [00:21:34] She had done some cocktails.
Yeardley: [00:21:35] Molotov cocktails?
Matt: [00:21:37] Yeah, and launched it at police.
Yeardley: [00:21:39] Jesus.
Dan: [00:21:40] We differentiate between protesters and ne’er-do-wells.
Matt: [00:21:45] Yeah.
Dan: [00:21:46] And Laura and Billy are ne’er-do-wells. They’re not protesting. This is beyond that. They’re trying to hurt people.
Matt: [00:21:53] 100%. They came in and they met with us and basically, “You’re going to get arrested. Whatever it takes to get arrested, you’re going to do. Even if it’s punching a cop, that’s what you’re going to do.” My contact, obviously, with my agency is sporadic and very little. All this is going on, and most of it is quick text messages, turn around and delete them. And it was decided. For this protest, 6 o’ clock in the morning, we were going to take the street. The protesters, the ones of us that were going to get arrested, we’re going to be in the front and block the street. With the text messages, with my agency, “All right, that’s when I can get arrested. There won’t be a lot of people. This will be perfect.” Last thing I need is for my picture to go everywhere.
Yeardley: [00:22:37] So, Matt, you’re afraid if your face gets on the news that somebody that who doesn’t know you’re undercover might dime you out.
Matt: [00:22:46] Exactly.
Dave: [00:22:46] So you have these meetings, multiple meetings. Laura is kind of facilitating. “This is a 101 on how to get arrested at a protest. If plan A doesn’t work, go to plan B, C, D, E,” whatever. Do you have to run that up the chain to let your command staff know, “Hey, by the way, there is going to be some violence. It’s going to happen during the shareholders meeting, and they’ve got me out front, and I’m supposed to get arrested. So, just giving you a heads up.”
Matt: [00:23:13] Yeah. My handler, and the handler is somebody that while I’m undercover, they’re my safety net. They’re the ones who are in charge of me. This was the intel unit that was operating everything with the police department. My specific handle was a good friend of mine. So, they were handling everything. I basically sent him a text said, “I have to get arrested. This isn’t an option type thing. This is part of the vetting.” He made it happen and he did a great job. He went directly to the deputy chief and the chief. They went, spoke to the sheriff, and the sheriff was going to himself do the computer to make sure there’s no problem that my real identity doesn’t come out then and that none of the deputies, even at the jail, were going to know who I was.
Dave: [00:23:53] Perfect.
Matt: [00:23:54] Exactly.
Dan: [00:23:55] Your handler, he’s on board and he’s talking to his command staff, a select few people.
Matt: [00:24:01] Correct.
Dan: [00:24:02] You guys are trying to create a game plan or they just know that you’re going to get arrested? I’m assuming that you want to get arrested without having to escalate like, “Let’s get this done as fast as possible.”
Matt: [00:24:13] Correct. That’s what I had. We’re going back and forth in Texas[?]. “Listen, 6 o’ clock in the morning at this location we are taking the street to march to Bank of America.” Obviously, that’s a crime, we’re not allowed to block traffic, we’re going to have hundreds of people behind us. This is the perfect time to arrest us. Protesters are expecting us to get arrested. They don’t think that we’re going to be allowed to do this. I said, “This will give me my credibility. Everything will be great.” Perfect, that’s what we’re going to do.” I’m sleeping with the protesters at night and I’m a nervous wreck. All that’s going through is, “Holy shit, I’m getting arrested tomorrow. Holy shit, I’m getting arrested tomorrow.”
Yeardley: [00:24:45] Is it the first time you’ve been arrested?
Matt: [00:24:47] Yes. I was nervous, but anyway, get through the night. And 6 o’ clock in the morning comes and we’re up and rolling. We take the street. Immediately, bike officers cut us off and block us, I’m like, “Oh, this is picture perfect. This is going to go great.” They have us blocked and 20 minutes goes by and they’re still stopping us, but nothing’s happening. Now the beads of sweat are coming down my face and I’m like, “Oh, come on.” The other guys I’m getting arrested with, we’re all looking around like, “What’s going on? What’s going to happen?”
Dave: [00:25:17] What’s an eco-terrorist got to do around here [crosstalk] to get arrested, right?
Matt: [00:25:21] We’re stopped 30 minutes just standing there. I think they just want to see me sweat for a while. And then all of a sudden, you see the bike officers just go.
Yeardley: [00:25:29] They leave?
Matt: [00:25:30] They leave. We take the street and march up to Bank of America. So now I’m like, “I hate people. I hate everyone.” I did have two people that were assigned to arrest me. They were friends of mine. They knew who I was and they were going to be the ones to arrest me whenever it was time.
Yeardley: [00:25:45] Were they among those bike officers?
Matt: [00:25:47] No, which was also assigned that something was not right. We get the Bank of America and it’s at a corner and it’s right in the heart of the city. There’s over a thousand protesters. [unintelligible] It’s a huge protest. It’s got national attention. Everybody knew it was going to happen. You had ran Greenpeace, all the other organizations I named, plus this was during the mortgage crisis. So, you had a bunch of those getting involved in it too. We’re sitting there and I knew what was going to happen. Eventually, Laura comes up and grabs those of us that are supposed to get arrested. And there’s four of us. They have the protesters kind of form a wall around us and duck down so we can talk. She goes, “All right, you all are taking the building. You had police officers lined up all across. Your job is to get inside that building and get up to the shareholders meeting.”
Dave: [00:26:33] Commit burglary.
Matt: [00:26:34] Correct. That was our job.
Yeardley: [00:26:36] Why do you call it burglary?
Dave: [00:26:37] It’s unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime.
Matt: [00:26:42] Exactly. Yeah. I’m like, “All right, I got to find a little opening and then I can get through the line, and get close and then act like I trip. Whatever I can do, not to try to get beat up too bad.”
Yeardley: [00:26:53] By the cops, you mean?
Matt: [00:26:54] Yeah, exactly. Because the two people that are supposed to arrest me, I see them and they’re nowhere near that area. And so, I have no way of communicating with them and say, “Hey, I got a breakthrough here.”
Dan: [00:27:02] No, you raise your hand, you go, “Hey, over here. [Yeardley giggles] Get over here. I hate you pigs.”[laughter]
Matt: [00:27:11] I found an opening and I was like, “All right. I’m going for it.”
Yeardley: [00:27:15] Like an opening in the line of policemen?
Matt: [00:27:17] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:27:17] Okay.
Matt: [00:27:18] Retrospect. What I should have done is looked at what officers were near that. You shouldn’t try to jump a barricade when you have a young officer, big, been working out, [Paul and Yeardley chuckles] ready to get his thing on. I didn’t do that. I just saw the opening, so I go to launch over it, and he just has my body and work onto the ground. I get arrested, and CNN is right there, and they have the camera in my face, and I’m like, “This is bad.” And, of course, RAN immediately has shirts, they want me getting publicity that I’m working for RAN, I got arrested with RAN. So, that happens. And I have to sit there and wait for the other ones to get arrested and eventually end up downtown with my friends. We’re at the jail. We get inside the jail. And again, nobody at the jail knows who I am. The guy that’s photographing me says, “You look just like Charles Manson.” I don’t get paid enough for this.
Yeardley: [00:28:15] You mean the booking photo guy?
Matt: [00:28:17] Yeah. I was there for 12 hours in the jail and that was the longest 12 hours of my life. I sat there and I had no idea what I was coming out to. One of the guys doing the processing said, “Yeah, we just saw you on CNN.”
Yeardley: [00:28:30] Oh, no.
Matt: [00:28:31] The whole time I’m curious, “Am I coming out to the SWAT team to get me out of the city?”
Yeardley: [00:28:35] Like, has your cover been blown and your agency is going to remove you?
Matt: [00:28:40] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:28:40] Or, has your cover been blown and now RAN is going to scuttle you away, never to be seen again?
Matt: Exactly. I found out later that my department, my handler, had actually gotten calls that, “Hey, do you know that guy’s an officer that got arrested?” A couple of other officers had recognized me, and of course, they didn’t know. He’s like, “Yeah, you do not talk about this kind of thing.”
Yeardley: [00:29:03] Oh, my God.
Dave: [00:29:04] So, Matt, what did you get charged for?
Matt: [00:29:06] I got a resisting charge.
Dave: [00:29:09] Did you get any punches in on anybody that you were like, “Ah, you’re my old rival on patrol. I’m going after you.”
Matt: [00:29:15] No, they just got me– [laughs]
Dave: [00:29:16] Got it.
Yeardley: [00:29:17] I actually have a question about these officers at the jail who don’t know you’re undercover.
Dan: [00:29:22] Because if they fingerprint you.
Yeardley: [00:29:23] Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. What happens if you get fingerprinted and identified while you’re undercover?
Matt: [00:29:31] All right, so another tangent. Obviously, they had to switch my fingerprints to come up to my UC name. They forgot to switch it back after the case. I went back to the DEA Task Force and of course I had to get fingerprinted and get my security clearance again and I get called into the general supervisor’s office and he’s like, “You came back as a terrorist.” I was like, “Son of a bitch.”[laughter]
Dan: [00:29:54] “I can explain that.”
Matt: [00:29:56] “My bad. I didn’t know that was a problem.”[laughter]
Matt: [00:30:00] I had to write this long letter and I had to have the major or the deputy chief write a letter saying, “Yes, this was all pre planned. We’re switching the fingerprints now. This was a mistake.”
Yeardley: [00:30:09] That’s a hell of an occupational hazard. [chuckles] Getting back to you being released from jail after you got arrested at the protest, what’s the situation when you get out?
Matt: [00:30:22] Greenpeace was nice enough to buy my bail. I get out and I go straight back to same place where we had the meetings. That was our headquarters when we were doing legit stuff. That’s where we would meet up.
Yeardley: [00:30:33] Was it like in a basement, sort of sequestered?
Matt: [00:30:37] There was almost like a garage type area, I would say that was kind of offset. That’s when we had the large group. That’s where we’re at. So, I get there after being arrested and then it’s a standing ovation.
Yeardley: [00:30:47] Matt, the point of the arrest is to gain national attention.
Matt: [00:30:50] Yes. The organizations ran Greenpeace. All the protesters, they wanted the recognition, they wanted to bring everything to spotlight. So, that was their purpose for the arrest. The purpose of me being arrested, this would be for the criminal side of things was I needed to be vetted.
Yeardley: [00:31:04] But the standing ovation is you got arrested, you brought national attention to the cause and then secretly for you, the standing ovation is you didn’t get made as a cop.
Matt: [00:31:16] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:31:16] So, we’re still copacetic?
Matt: [00:31:18] Yeah, everything is good.
Dan: [00:31:20] But Matt’s down for the cause. If you think about like outlaw motorcycle gangs, it’s almost like you’re getting your colors.
Matt: [00:31:27] That’s exactly what it was.
Paul: [00:31:28] This protest, they’re bringing people in from out of the state, right?
Matt: [00:31:33] Over thousand people there, everywhere from California, New York, and everywhere in between.
Paul: [00:31:39] These people are just funding these trips themselves or there’s backers?
Matt: [00:31:44] There’s major backers and the whole thing.
Paul: [00:31:47] Okay.
Matt: [00:31:47] They’ll have buses, they come in style.
Yeardley: [00:31:49] Do you know where the pipeline of money came from?
Matt: [00:31:52] I do not. I have my guesses, but they’re guesses.
Paul: [00:31:56] This is so coordinated. That what’s shocking to me is how coordinated these protests are.
Matt: [00:32:02] Both for the shareholders and for the DNC, another one of my jobs was to find a place where we could put large numbers of people to camp. There was one place right by the railroad that was abandoned that we set up shop.
Dave: [00:32:14] Logistics.
Matt: [00:32:14] Yeah. And then you have to find another place for the underground, because the underground can’t stay at the same place where the media is staying or what we refer to as the media, the people that could be seen on TV, that kind of thing.
Dan: [00:32:27] After this, you get bailed out, you get properly feted, right?
Matt: [00:32:30] Exactly. That night we get hammered and we’re going to say “we” mean not so much, but the people I’m with and just celebrate. Now, the only issue being with everybody, I was good except for Billy. Everybody referred to us as best friends. But to the very day that I was done with this case, his switch was just on and off. You didn’t know who you were going to get. One day, perfectly relax and we’re talking and we’re good, and very next day, strip search. You just didn’t know who you were going to get with him.
Dan: [00:33:02] Maybe he just wanted to see you naked.
Matt: [00:33:03] I don’t blame him.
Dave: [00:33:21] So, Matt, you’ve been arrested. There is a little bit of lull in between the next action, I’m guessing. You guys do some planning, you’ve got two different camps. One for the media facing folks, the other for the underground. I imagine that the plan would be, “Let’s make a bigger splash on this next one.”
Matt: [00:33:40] So, the next one is a DNC. Yeah, this is going to be big. This is when slowly the preparations start coming together, you’re starting to get an influx of people into town. One of the guys I became friends with was with the Communist Party and he’s part of this group with anarchists. I don’t know, if you can get more extreme than anarchist and a communist, but the same goal, take everything down.
Dave: [00:34:04] Right. One side hates government, the other one wants the government involved in everything.
Matt: [00:34:07] Exactly. The communist started hanging out with him and he started sleeping at my apartment sometimes. He had forgotten his computer one time and asked to use mine, because he was doing feeds with Iran to propaganda. FBI loved the fact because it was an FBI computer that he was nice enough to go ahead and do that.[chuckles]
Yeardley: [00:34:27] Sign in on their computer.
Matt: [00:34:31] Exactly. During this time period, and this is when I learned more about DGR, Deep Green Resistance. We went to another part of the state, had a meeting there, did a lot of traveling, did some more shooting. Billy was very big in that. He would preach a lot about that you need to know how to shoot when they come to your property, you need to be able to take care of things.
Dan: [00:34:49] Was he proficient?
Matt: [00:34:50] Yeah, he actually was.
Dan: [00:34:51] Had some training like he knew how to move with a weapon.
Matt: [00:34:55] He knew how to move, he knew how to do quick reloads.
Dave: [00:34:58] How many of these folks are carrying weapons at these protests?
Matt: [00:35:02] Very few. He was one of the only ones that I know of. Most of them did not like firearms. Now, oddly enough, didn’t like firearms, were perfectly fine with bombs.
Dave: [00:35:10] You’ve built some credibility with this group. You’re hanging out with Billy when his switch has turned to friendly. I imagine you’re informally being promoted through this organization to the point that now you’re privy to some of the more high-level strategic planning sessions. What do those meetings look like?
Matt: [00:35:32] A lot of it was, “We’re getting people from this state. These people have confirmed. We have 20 people from Indiana coming in, we’re going to need a spot for them. We have this group from Pennsylvania coming in, but they can’t be seen. They cannot be around this group.”
Yeardley: [00:35:48] Because they don’t get along?
Matt: [00:35:49] No, because they’ll be in the violent action. When I say violent action, that’s anything from throwing bricks to just doing property damage to molotov cocktails to trying to hurt and destroy things. You would have influx of people coming down, staying for a couple of days, talking, and then going back out. And then we would do small protests in our city.
Dave: [00:36:10] Between the Bank of America shareholders meeting and the DNC week, how much time is in between those two events?
Matt: [00:36:18] Six months.
Dave: [00:36:19] So, you’ve proven yourself at the Bank of America protests and now you’re in with the radical element, aka Billy, for the coming DNC protests in six months. That’s a lot of time for planning.
Matt: [00:36:31] Correct. For that six months, I would have at best a quick text to my wife to be able to say, “I love you, I hope everything is good.”
Yeardley: [00:36:40] You’re talking a little bit with your wife. You also mentioned earlier that you’re texting with your handler in your department. What happens if Billy wants to look at your phone?
Matt: [00:36:51] So we use memes. They would send me a meme, and then I’d reply back with a meme.
Yeardley: [00:36:56] Like a code.
Matt: [00:36:58] If it was a happy meme, a joke, everything is fine. If it was on a serious level, then they knew something may be up. My department would track my phone to know where I was the best they could. I would be out all hours of the night and then would try to let them know, “Hey, if I’m at the apartment, it was always assumed that I had people there,” and I’d try to text them. Now, I did get a cat during this time.
Yeardley: [00:37:22] A cat?
Matt: [00:37:22] A cat.
Dave: [00:37:23] Yeardley is excited. She’s like, “Cats?”
Matt: [00:37:25] This was right after the shareholders meeting it was given to me, which I was happy about at first because I like cats. And it’s sad because I gave the cat away to a good home after the case. My plan originally was to keep it, but again, your mind plays tricks on you. Any kind of memory of that, I was like, “I can’t do it.”
Yeardley: [00:37:43] Right.So fascinating. What a great little detail.
Matt: [00:37:46] The name of the cat, I named it Anakae. I was a Jack Johnson fan and so that was music that I could listen to around them. Even your music has to match up with who you are. I took banana pancakes and shortened it to Anakae and named a cat after that.
Yeardley: [00:38:04] So, you’re embedded with these people. Did you have to trick out your apartment? Was it squalor? Was it penny neat? What was your style as this undercover fellow?
Matt: [00:38:15] Actually, because Billy and Sam are both very nice people, they took me to a lot of yard sales to help me decorate. Because again, my cover story being that I just came from a sailboat.
Yeardley: [00:38:25] You didn’t have any furniture.
Matt: [00:38:27] Exactly.
Paul: [00:38:28] You have various individuals from all over the nation that are flowing in during this planning for the DNC. Are you traveling at all during this time?
Matt: [00:38:40] I don’t leave the state at all. I am traveling inside the state.
Yeardley: Matt, what are they planning to do at the DNC?
Matt: [00:38:47] Up to this point, I’d heard about violent action being taken and destroyed property and all that. Then all of a sudden, there are three individuals that come into town, and I’m introduced to them, and they start getting close to me. I was never told what organization or anything there with. It was just other environmental anarchists. Hanging out with them, then the conversation started that we really need to do something big at DNC. That’s when talk about bombing came up and that we would need a storage unit, that we could get the stuff down here, but we need a place to be able to keep it.
Yeardley: [00:39:24] Does that mean the ingredients for the explosive?
Matt: [00:39:27] Correct.
Dave: [00:39:27] How big are they going here?
Matt: [00:39:29] I don’t know, for sure, but basically, according to them, it would be a U-Haul full of stuff.
Dave: [00:39:34] Like ANFO nitrogen fuel oil, that kind of bomb?
Matt: [00:39:39] Yeah.
Dave: [00:39:40] So, substantial explosion.
Dan: [00:39:43] Oklahoma City.
Matt: [00:39:44] Yeah. So, I became the one in charge of getting a place to store it. I volunteered for that. I’m a nice guy like that.
Yeardley: [00:39:51] Team player?
Matt: [00:39:52] Oh, yeah. Between the FBI and my sergeant, they get a storage unit and get it backstopped. Backstopped means that if they try to see, “All right, this person rented it, what’s the relation?” It would come back to a neighbor kind of thing. So, it would make sense as to how I got about it.
Yeardley: [00:40:09] So, it would come back to a neighbor of yours.
Paul: Yeah. In the apartment complex.
Yeardley: [00:40:12] That will show Billy that you’re doing your due diligence to keep this whole plot under wraps.
Matt: [00:40:17] Yeah. Get the storage unit, everything, it’s good there. And this is well ahead of time. Basically, I’m sitting on this thing for a while. And meanwhile, the three individuals were down permanently.
Paul: [00:40:29] So, you have the storage unit. Do you have anything in the storage unit at this moment?
Matt: [00:40:34] No, it’s empty. One of the things I asked for from my agency and the FBI was information they had on the outside I didn’t want to know. I believe they may have had the storage unit wired up and cameraed. Honestly, I don’t know.
Yeardley: [00:40:47] Who did, your agency?
Matt: [00:40:49] Or, the FBI.
Yeardley: [00:40:50] Or, the FBI.
Matt: [00:40:51] Yeah.
Dave: [00:40:52] You have three folks who come down and it’s clear like, they’re going to stay embedded until the DNC happens. Do they have a team of bomb makers that come into town and then you guys start putting a bomb together?
Matt: [00:41:05] The way this ends up, basically, I’m passing the information that group coming down and meanwhile, the decision is made that these people that we know are here to commit violent acts. They are having the police around them at all times marked like noticeably around them at all times.
Yeardley: [00:41:25] Wait, what? The three bad people have police around them all the time?
Matt: [00:41:30] Yes, and some other people. They even did it to me, so that I wouldn’t stand out. But the goal was they see police officers all the time, then they’re going to think they can’t get away with anything, and it actually ended up working. So, long story short, they get waved off.
Paul: [00:41:45] When you say that there is this constant police presence around these individuals, including yourself, are these like marked units just swirling by? Do you have undercover cops that are just posted up on a corner being obvious that, “Hey, we’re watching”?
Matt: [00:41:59] So combination, there were other undercover cops. I mean, that’s the norm. It was funny because I would see my friends.
Yeardley: [00:42:06] The police presence deterred the people who are actually carrying the bomb making materials from someplace out of state coming down to your storage unit?
Matt: [00:42:15] Yeah, the people that were already here talked to them and deterred them from coming down.
Dan: [00:42:18] There’s too much heat.
Matt: [00:42:19] Yeah, exactly.
Dave: [00:42:20] You have three people that are from out of town, and the natural rhythm of life is most people have very little contact or exposure to the police. All of a sudden, these people from out of town, the police always seem to be around. They also happen to be around other members of this group. I imagine there would have been some rumors like, “Is there a mole in this group? How do we land on the police radar? We’re not even from here.”
Matt: [00:42:48] Yes, there were major conversations about that, which luckily I was a part of and I agreed that. Yeah, we definitely have someone that’s talking to the police. But by this point, you have an extra 400 or 500 people at least in town. And so-
Yeardley: [00:43:01] It could be anyone.
Matt: [00:43:03] -it could be anyone. So, I just have to make sure that I’m the person that’s trying to help you figure out who it is and that was an interesting game.
Yeardley: [00:43:10] Just to be 100% sure I’m tracking here. You, Matt, are the mole.
Dave: [00:43:16] Correct.
Yeardley: [00:43:17] Right.
Dave: [00:43:18] But you’re like, “Look, I charged a police line. [chuckles] I took a beating. I got charged with resisting. You guys bailed me out. I’ve been pulled over. I’m trying whatever I can to build some credit with you guys to let you know I’m way on board with this.”
Paul: [00:43:33] This is a situation where, if the mole is identified, what kind of threat would this group do to that mole?
Matt: [00:43:43] I truly believe it’d be bad. If they figured out this person is giving information, they’re so irrational.
Paul: [00:43:50] So, potentially kill the mole.
Matt: [00:43:51] Yeah.
Paul: [00:43:52] You couldn’t just misdirect and point somebody else out and say, “That’s got to be the mole?”
Matt: [00:43:57] No, absolutely not.
Yeardley: [00:43:58] Matt, when you find out that the larger plan is to bomb the DNC and you had mentioned that they work in cells and their modus operandi is nobody knows everything, except for maybe one person, so nobody can rat on anybody else, is there a concern of yours within this organization, these environmental extremists that they’re also splintering information and you don’t have all of it?
Matt: [00:44:23] Oh, 100%. I still believe there was. We had no evidence, but they’re not dumb about that kind of thing. We had people that were supposed to be making Molotov cocktails at houses and that’s why we’d have a marked unit go sit down at that house. The people that were making the Molotov cocktails had no idea that there was another group that was planning on a bomb.
Yeardley: [00:44:45] I see. And Matt, you actually brought us a video of yourself undercover in this anarchist operation and you’re being interviewed by a local news channel. Here’s a clip.
Matt: [00:45:00] I’m a Volunteer here [beep] with RAN Greenpeace, 350 and numerous other different organizations. Reason I’m out here today is a multitude of reasons. [beep] It’s got to be held accountable for their dirty politics for their destruction of the environment and for everything else they do that is hurting the citizens in this community and nothing’s being done about it. So, we want it to come to an end.
Reporter: [00:45:22] All right. Thanks, Matt.
Dave: [00:45:27] You’re pretty good at the delivery. You’re convincing.
Matt: [00:45:29] [laughs] I appreciate that.
Dave: [00:45:30] But you’re full of shit, right?
Matt: [00:45:32] Oh, completely. There was a lot of YouTube videos watching and trying to learn what I’m supposed to be like.
Yeardley: [00:45:38] It’s interesting, because at first, you didn’t want to go on camera, because the potential for you being on the news to blow your cover is much greater than you not going on the news. And RAN was totally fine with that. Now, for whatever reason, they’ve changed their minds and they do want you to go on camera and talk to the news. I’m guessing to test your loyalty, how good are you at pushing the cause. And you poor, Matt, are in no position to refuse them. Is that fairly accurate?
Matt: [00:46:15] Yeah, very much so.
Yeardley: [00:46:16] Seeing you on that video, I’m struck by how much of your face we can’t see, because your beard is so heavy, you’re wearing those wraparound glasses. It’s pretty great. You walk the line really well. You’re also wearing that grungy old t-shirt. So, my question is, who dresses you for the part of environmental terrorist?
Matt: [00:46:40] Well, got clothes from Goodwill or out of dumpsters. I take it from there, because that’s what we did.
Yeardley: [00:46:47] Why is that part of what RAN did?
Matt: [00:46:50] The anarchist side of things is anything you get for free, you get for free. I got to be part of a lot of dumpster diving during this case. There was a particular time I’m at Sam’s house and Sam had gone dumpster diving a few hours earlier and was able to find us some great eggs to cook. [Yeardley gasps] You could smell these. That’s how bad it was.
Yeardley: [00:47:11] Oh, Matt.
Matt: [00:47:12] It was awful. There was time I was at one subject’s house and he is using his hands to make hummus with the chickpeas that he had in his garden. Unfortunately, right next to him are several needles and little baggies of heroin. You can see the track marks all over his arms and he’s sitting there just squeezing those little chickpeas together. I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to die.”
Yeardley: [00:47:36] Oh, my God.
Matt: [00:47:36“Definitely going to die.”
Dave: [00:47:38] This is why I couldn’t ever do undercover work. You see work that even when we serve a search warrant on a meth or a heroin house, they’re the most disgusting places on the planet. You feel dirty the minute you go in, you feel dirty when you get home.
Matt: [00:47:54] Awful.
Dave: [00:47:54] And you got to live in this.
Matt: [00:47:56] Yeah.
Dave: [00:47:56] Not at your apartment, but this is your lifestyle.
Matt: [00:47:58] For the last month of the case, I’d had enough. Everybody stank. So, I said, “You know what? I’m not showering either.” For a whole month, I went and didn’t shower at all. The nastiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. When I finally got out of the case, I literally took a shower for probably over an hour.
Dave: [00:48:15] On that note, we’ve kind of danced around the end of how this plan falls apart, correct?
Matt: [00:48:22] Yeah.
Dave: [00:48:22] That’s due to police presence, some deterrent factors. There’s heat on lots of folks who are pretty high up in this organization so much, so that organization waves off the next wave of people who are coming in with the big, bad bomb.
Matt: [00:48:39] That’s correct. They tell them and others not to even bother showing up that there’s too much police presence. I think they were told that there’s a rat. Somebody’s in here giving everything up, because anytime any action was planned, all of a sudden, the police would show up.
Dave: [00:48:52] How long after the DNC planning stuff? How much longer are you embedded with these guys before you go back to your career?
Matt: [00:49:02] I stuck right up until DNC was over, just in case they wanted to have that intelligence the whole time.
Yeardley: [00:49:07] “They” meaning the FBI?
Matt: [00:49:09] Yes. The last day of the DNC is when I disappeared and basically, the FBI and the police department started going around with my wanted poster that I was wanted for domestic terrorism in another state. Actually, Billy was the first one to call me and I was like, “Bro, I love you and I’m going to miss you, but I think it’s time for you to get back on your sailboat and sail.” Let me know that I was wanted. I got multiple phone calls after that saying, “Hey, you need to get out of town. You need to go.”
Yeardley: [00:49:38] But how perfect that they feel like it’s their idea.
Matt: [00:49:40] Exactly. I did a cryptic message on Facebook. I think it’s on the one lines of, “It was nice seeing everyone. I’m going to be gone for a while.” And then I got all the, “We love you, man.” “Good luck.” “Take care.”
Dave: [00:49:50] You’re acting for months on end. Did you get close, like genuinely close with anybody in this organization?
Matt: [00:49:58] So, there were a couple unwittings. An unwitting is someone who is around the criminal act, but they’re not partaking in the criminal act themselves. There were a couple like that. Obviously, not every protester is bad. Not every protester has evil thoughts or wants to do dumb things or anything like that. There were some that had legitimate gripes. When the mortgage then crashed, absolutely people had legitimate gripes. There were people that I met with that and like, “I really do feel bad for this person.” So, yeah, there were some friendships that way, because you’re with these people 24/7. Now, I spent a lot of my time with Billy and those few other subjects. And Billy was just an emotional roller coaster for me. I was, literally, every single time scared to death. Is he going to snap today? Just all over the place all the time. Then the drugs obviously didn’t help that, that just fueled him.
Dave: [00:50:51] What kind of drugs is Billy into?
Matt: [00:50:52] Cocaine and marijuana. The cocaine was what would stir his brain pretty good.
Dave: [00:50:58] Okay. And would you carry weapons? Would you carry a firearm at all during this?
Matt: [00:51:03] No, I didn’t have a gun with me the entire time or any weapon at all.
Dave: [00:51:05] Feel a little bit naked?
Matt: [00:51:07] [laughs] Yeah. A lot.
Yeardley: [00:51:08] Would you say that this volatility that Billy exhibited has a lot to do with why you characterized this as one of the worst years of your life?
Matt: [00:51:18] Yeah.
Paul: [00:51:19] Now, with this undercover op that you did, okay, the bomb is not going to happen.
Matt: [00:51:24] Right.
Paul: [00:51:25] Was Billy arrested? Sam arrested? How does this wrap up?
Matt: [00:51:31] So, the decision was made. It was the right decision. At the time, I was not happy about the decision, but in the middle of the DNC, Billy was arrested.
Paul: [00:51:42] What is he being arrested for?
Matt: [00:51:43] A suspended driver’s license. That’s what he got arrested on. A misdemeanor and they didn’t give him bail.
Dave: [00:51:50] Just to pick him off on that charge? No bail? That must have raised a lot of eyebrows in his organization.
Matt: [00:51:56] Yeah, and that’s why I wasn’t happy about it at the time. I understood the process. They would have him off the streets, so he couldn’t do anything. We had enough other people were paying attention to and this guy definitely very capable of doing something bad. That was the rationale. It just made my job harder than to not get burned. Seemed like that was my daily job was to make sure that the fingers would not come back on me.
Paul: [00:52:16] They obviously couldn’t hold him for very long on a minor charge.
Matt: [00:52:21] They had him in for over 24 hours.
Dave: [00:52:23] Knowing how it works, that’s very suspicious to me.
Matt: [00:52:25] I was the one who picked Billy up from jail and that was the first thing Billy said is, “It’s bullshit. They held me because they’re worried I was going to do something.”
Dave: [00:52:35] He has to recognize there’s some self-infliction here by being so vocal, so present in this movement that he would go, “Well, they were just looking for something skinny, but yeah, they hit me as hard as they could for the suspended license.”
Matt: [00:52:48] I think he takes pride in some of that. He did interviews after that. He actually got on some national TV interviews after the arrest. It was definitely a moment of pride for him.
Dave: [00:52:59] Yeah. How do you eject from this situation? How do you roll back into normal life?
Matt: [00:53:06] Not easily [chuckles] would be the quick answer, but they send around the one and poster. There is at 3 o’ clock in the morning, a group that goes to the apartment that I was at that scoops up my personal belongings and gets those out.
Yeardley: [00:53:21] So, from the FBI or something?
Matt: [00:53:23] Correct. Yeah.
Dave: [00:53:24] How’s that determination made? Do they give you a heads up like, “Hey, this thing is over at 10 o’ clock tonight, you are bailing out of this thing,” or are you telling them, “Hey, I got nothing left to do here, let’s wrap this up”?
Matt: [00:53:37] I had actually asked to come out a couple of days earlier, and they said no. I was pretty washed at that point. There was about a two-week period I just did not sleep at all there at the end and I was spent. They asked me to hang in there. I did. All of a sudden, I got a text that says, “Clean yourself and go home.” When they say “Clean yourself,” that means you got to make sure you don’t have heat checks and get to your house.
Yeardley: [00:53:58] What’s a heat check?
Matt: [00:53:59] Being followed. For the entire year and two months. I was always getting followed. So, I had to make sure that nobody was following me to get to my house. That’s basically, you’ll drive down a dead-end street, see there’s any cars, you pay a lot of attention to your rear-view mirror what cars are back there, stop at several gas stations. I always laughed at one and I even laughed to his face, because I pull up to a gas station and I park at the front. He pulled up to a gas pump, didn’t undo anything, and I got out of my car, and I could tell right off the gate that this was somebody following me. I got out like I’m going into the store, and he gets out and starts to walk into the store with me, and that I quickly jump back to the car and see him get to the door and then go back into the car.
Yeardley: [00:54:41] [chuckles] Subtle. So, Matt, how do you end up shaking that kind of heat as you call it?
Matt: [00:54:47] So, I’m actually proud of myself. I got very good at it. Like pulling in the parking lots, once you establish they’re there, then it comes down to waiting to pull out traffic in front of the right time, cutting through some streets, getting them lost, and get back out that way.
Dave: [00:55:01] Got to love yellow lights.
Matt: [00:55:03] Yeah, exactly. You just got to time everything out perfectly. Your first objective a lot of times, get a few cars between you and them. Then once you have the few cars, then it’s easier to do that dart into a street and they’re going to miss you and you can be gone in a hurry.
Yeardley: [00:55:16] And then take us through once Billy basically says, “Dude, you’ve been made. You got to go. Get on your boat and sail away.” How long is it between that moment and when you actually get home to your wife and your son?
Matt: [00:55:29] It wasn’t long. Like 2 hours.
Yeardley: [00:55:31] Oh, it’s not like days?
Matt: [00:55:32] No. I didn’t have any contact with the department or anything like that. Once I got to my house, then I called the department, talked to my handler and said, “All right, I’m home.”
Dave: [00:55:42] What was the reception like at home?
Matt: [00:55:44] [laughs] “Don’t touch me.”[laughter]
Matt: [00:55:48] But again, I hadn’t showered in a month, so I was filthy. It was a very surreal moment. All your emotions hit pretty hard when I got home, like, “Oh, my gosh, this is actually over. We completed the mission.” And of course, I hadn’t slept. And so, I went and I showered forever. My wife and I went and picked up my son from daycare. First time seeing him and giving him a hug, that was awesome. My wife and I, we had to have that very frank conversation where I was a single mom for this amount of time and I don’t want to say she moved on.
Yeardley: [00:56:23] But she had to compensate.
Matt: [00:56:24] Yeah. It’s kind of getting to know each other all over again. It would be ignorant, for lack of a better word to say that I didn’t change at all. These cases don’t plan an impact on you, that don’t cause you problems. Thank goodness we have the relationship we do or I’d be in real trouble.
Yeardley: [00:56:40] Was there ever a time while you were undercover that you thought about pulling the plug early, that it just was too much, like you missed your family too much? You just thought, “I can’t do this anymore”?
Matt: [00:56:56] On so many different fronts, having so little communication with my family, especially with my kid, I remember my kid never gets in trouble. All of a sudden, my wife gets a call from the daycare that, “Something’s wrong. He’s kind of acting up and he’s not himself, and he’s really sad.” And then ends up, they say, “Well, apparently, he really misses his dad.” My wife debated whether she was going to tell me this or not, and eventually did. I came very close then to pulling the plug and walking away and said, “No, I can’t do it.”
Yeardley: [00:57:27] Not worth it.
Matt: [00:57:28] Yeah. About probably, a month later, my wife calls me and very brief because we couldn’t talk, just like, “I love you. Your mom has cancer.”
Yeardley: [00:57:36] Oh, my God.
Matt: [00:57:37] That was the end of the conversation. Had this case been anything else other than a lot of people’s safety, I would have bailed without a doubt. That was the only thing that kept me going.
Dan: [00:58:01] Run us through what happened with these folks. Was Billy the only one that got arrested?
Matt: [00:58:06] Yes.
Dan: [00:58:07] Anything else come out on Billy? Any other charges that you know of?
Matt: [00:58:11] No. I can tell you he’s still out with the movement.
Dan: [00:58:13] He’s doing his thing. Obviously, it was important to get Billy off the streets, even for 24 hours on a hold for a suspended license, which is actually a long time for a suspended license to be held in jail. Having him off the streets interrupts everything else that’s going on in the periphery. You talk about more serious charges for Billy. Talking about committing a crime is not a crime. No bomb was made. You need an act of furtherance. So, they need bomb making materials. They need other things to be acted upon in furtherance of this potential threat for it to actually rise to the level of a crime.
Dave: [00:58:54] Some people might say, “Was the juice worth the squeeze on this?” That you basically just donated 14 months of your life to your department, to your community, and to this radical organization, all for a guy getting arrested for driving while suspended. That’s the very, very narrow way of looking at this. You deterred a bombing that probably would have killed dozens, if not hundreds.
Matt: [00:59:21] Right. I got the Medal of Valor, actually, for this case.
Dave: [00:59:23] Very nice.
Matt: [00:59:25] Yeah.
Dave: [00:59:26] I wanted to ask, do you have any indication of Billy’s reaction if he ever found out you were in law enforcement?
Matt: [00:59:32] Not Billy, but one of Billy’s drones, let’s call them, wrote a thing that well, if this undercover is not a real person, then it’s okay to kill them because they don’t actually exist.
Yeardley: [00:59:46] Because you had a fake identity.
Matt: [00:59:48] Correct.
Dave: [00:59:49] Bad legal takes.
Yeardley: [00:59:50] Wow.
Matt: [00:59:49] Yeah.
Dan: [00:59:51] I’m sure that Billy and Sam, they’re very convincing and they have almost probably a word track of how they motivate people to get on board with them.
Matt: [01:00:02] Billy, especially, people were drawn to him. Very scary people drawn to him left and right. Emotions are all over the place, but people get drawn into him very, very quickly. He was good at getting people to do whatever he wanted them to do.
Yeardley: [01:00:15] Would you say he was charismatic?
Matt: [01:00:17] Oh, 100%.
Dan: [01:00:17] Well, you look at every cult leader, Jim Jones, David Koresh, NXIVM, they all share the same characteristics. They’re charismatic, they’re convincing, people are drawn to them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Yeardley: [01:00:30] What’s the end game, if your goal with these extreme groups is to overthrow the government? Let’s say you succeed in overthrowing the government, then what? Do they take over the government?
Matt: [01:00:43] Depending on which group you’re talking to. The environmental anarchists, which are about your most extreme. Their philosophy is you live all small communities, no centralized government.
Yeardley: [01:00:55] Like no laws, no agreed upon civilities. At some point, someone at the top is going to say, “Okay, I’m in charge, and I’m making new rules, new laws to supplant the old government rules.” Now they’ve begun to create the same kind of structure they said they wanted to eradicate.
Dave: [01:01:15] It’s more like a tribal format. Like each tribe takes care of their folks, tribe a few miles away, they make their own laws.
Matt: [01:01:23] Yes. However they want to live. They don’t believe in a central leader.
Yeardley: [01:01:27] Okay. Even as somebody will eventually install themselves as the central leader?
Matt: [01:01:35] Yes.
Yeardley: [01:01:35] Okay.
Paul: [01:01:36] When I start hearing about these groups, you have people with maybe a life philosophies that they become attracted with the mission of these groups, but then you have the extremes, the underground that are willing to go out and destroy property and commit violence. I wonder the people that are drawn into those groups, maybe they just naturally like the violence. Here’s an excuse for them to be able to go and do that.
Dan: [01:02:04] Yeah.
Matt: [01:02:04] That wouldn’t surprise me, especially, you’re an environmental anarchist. They’re ones that didn’t fit in school. They had a hard time with friends that they were the outcast big time. I think there’s at least the possibility that the anger started young and then this was a way to channel it and justified in their own head, “Well, I’m doing something good because I’m trying to protect the environment. So, it’s okay to be violent.”
Dan: [01:02:28] Yeah. There is a million different ways in which people justify their actions, whether they’re good or bad. The one most overwhelming comment trait of active shooters and people who commit mass violence is they’ve all felt slighted by something in society. That’s the main factor that unites all these people. They felt slighted by something at school or by society, we’ve talked about incels.
Yeardley: [01:02:51] There’s been some form of rejection they feel.
Dave: [01:02:54] Yeah. And that’s their motivation and their justification for hurting people. It sounds like Billy’s got some of that.
Matt: [01:03:01] Yeah.
Paul: [01:03:02] Maybe to take it on the other side of the spectrum. Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber. He basically, in many ways, is the same as an eco-terrorist.
Matt: [01:03:11] Oh, 100%. Yeah.
Paul: [01:03:13] So, he had a philosophy, the manifesto. He only wrote all the way out. He’s using the bombs. It’s really, I think, the same psychology right there.
Matt: [01:03:24] Yeah. It’s a justification to be violent. At the same time, Billy’s mind is “I am 100% right.”
Dave: [01:03:30] Yeah. A 100% buy-in on his part to his dogma.
Matt: [01:03:34] Exactly.
Dan: [01:03:35] I am curious as to why the DNC?
Matt: [01:03:38] Location. Because of where it was going to be.
Dan: [01:03:41] It was going to bring a lot of attention to their cause.
Matt: [01:03:43] Exactly. And it was–
Yeardley: [01:03:44] In the same city as Bank of America, which was the main target.
Matt: [01:03:48] Yes.
Paul: [01:03:48] Would they have claimed credit if they had successfully bombed the DNC?
Matt: [01:03:53] It wouldn’t have been credit to a specific organization. It would have been to environmental anarchists.
Yeardley: [01:04:00] Even though, Matt, we don’t know exactly where the money comes from, if the donors are not on the ground with you, like literally boots on the ground with the organization, what’s the end game for them? Did you have any sense of that?
Matt: [01:04:14] My belief was it was coming from another country. I don’t know if I have enough to back that up, but the reason I say that is it’s a pot of money. It’s not going just to environmental anarchists. It’s not going to the communist. It’s a pot of money everybody’s taken from to cause discontent and disruption. There are such different objectives, even within the groups, but yet–
Yeardley: [01:04:35] The flow of cash is there.
Dan: [01:04:37] Well, you’ve got Greenpeace. Greenpeace paid for your attorney when you got arrested. There’s got to be someone that knows how this money gets funneled in different ways, how it ends up at this little bubble of the greater organization of the more fringe, violent stuff that we’re talking about. Somebody knows how that money gets there.
Matt: [01:05:00] Greenpeace, when they do my bail or my lawyer or things like that or same with RAN. That money is a little more out and open. I think that would be a lot easier to trace. There’s also a nut pot of money. It may even be larger that you’ll see coming with these small groups that want to do more radical things. Like, you’re going to have this group who’s underground and they have to go to a separate location, but there’s funding to get those people there and it’s not coming from one group. Greenpeace isn’t going to put their name on that. Nothing will be attached to that. That money is ghost money.
Paul: [01:05:29] When you have that type of nation sponsored activity to so discontent, you could see where the money could be flowing through many different people and it’s going to be conflicting. That’s why we’re seeing this conflict, right?
Matt: [01:05:41] Yeah.
Dan: [01:05:42] Well, I’m sure the CIA has done in other countries.
Paul: [01:05:44] Oh, yeah.[laughter]
Dan: [01:05:45] It’s not like, it’s a one-way street.
Paul: [01:05:47] No. Especially now with all the discontent that is in the nation, they’re going, “Oh, this is a way we can continue just to blow this up.”
Yeardley: [01:05:55] Right. “Let’s throw gasoline on that fire.” I’ve said this so many times on this podcast, but this kind of work that you do, the kind of work that Dan and Dave and Paul do, it’s just not natural. It’s like not sustainable without it taking this massive emotional toll on you. I just think that you all are made of different stuff.
Matt: [01:06:16] I appreciate that.
Yeardley: [01:06:17] Without prying too much, can you tell us what’s the first step of trying to reassimilate back into your everyday life?
Matt: [01:06:28] When this case was over, they had me see a therapist. My wife went with me once. She broke down immediately. That’s the other part and that’s the hard part. Honestly, the selfish side on me, because you don’t think when you’re doing that this has a huge effect on your family. Long afterwards, thank goodness everything has worked out the way it has. My wife was a large part of me doing this podcast that, “Hey, it could be really good for you to talk about it.” When I talk about with her, I start to shake, I start to sweat. You have the continued nightmares from it and the paranoia and that kind of thing. It’s not sustainable. It takes its toll, for sure.
Dave: [01:07:07] How long after you came out of your undercover role in this particular case, were you able to finally see or speak to your mom?
Matt: [01:07:16] It wasn’t long. It was within a week. To be honest, my wife had dealt with everything with that. By the time I was there, things were looking good and it didn’t hit me probably until after I got out. Just how you get so focused and so minder and you blocked everything out and then you kick yourself later, you’re like, “What was I even thinking?”
Paul: [01:07:33] And then how long before you’re back at work?
Matt: [01:07:36] Hats off to the intel unit, my handler. When I got out, we had a sit-down meeting, a debriefing, and they said, “We’ll see you in a month.” Take a month to try to recompose. We actually went up to the shore.
Yeardley: [01:07:50] The family did?
Matt: [01:07:51] Yeah.
Paul: [01:07:52] After that month and you go back to work, are you doing routine narc work? Undercover buys? What are you doing?
Matt: [01:08:00] So, yes, I went back to doing regular narc stuff, controlled buys. I went and at that time I was HIDTA, which is High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It was set up by Congress and basically, it’s to help battle drugs kind of thing.
Dave: [01:08:15] Most states have them.
Matt: [01:08:16] Yeah.
Paul: [01:08:17] Did you get job satisfaction going back and doing that?
Matt: [01:08:21] So, yes and no. There’s a part of me that craves getting back into that. I think that’s part of the reason I have trouble putting on blinders.
Yeardley: [01:08:29] What sort of blinders did you expect yourself to put on?
Matt: [01:08:31] Sticking to just doing the simple part, like just the controlled buy and not trying to see any kind of bigger picture.
Dan: [01:08:41] I find that interesting. I was the same way. When I first started in detectives, I was a fraud in financial crimes detective and I worked with a partner at the time, so I would work the fraud financial crimes part of it. But 90% of the cases that I worked had a drug component to them also. I would work that side of the case also. My partner at the time, he would say, “That’s not your job to work that side of it.” But for me, I couldn’t do that. I was interested in the other side of it also. That’s one of the payoffs for me was taking down both branches of that tree.
Yeardley: [01:09:20] But also, you don’t just want to treat the symptom, you want to get at the cause. If the cause is, I’m drug addicted and I need money, so I’m going to steal, it’s not not connected.
Dan: [01:09:29] And that’s a long branch. That branch goes and goes and goes.
Paul: [01:09:34] I knew a guy who with one agency was a homicide investigator. A lot of gang stuff in the west end of the county. He ends up going over to another agency where he’s out on patrol. Well, when he rolls up at a homicide scene, he was starting to kick into investigative mode. And his superiors were telling him, “Stop it, stop it, stop it.” He couldn’t help himself, because that is what he did. I could see where with Matt, you’re doing these controlled buys, but then you’re going, “Hold on here. [laughs] I could embed myself over here. I can actually take down a huge trafficking chain.”
Matt: [01:10:07] Right. Yeah.
Yeardley: [01:10:08] So interesting. Matt, thank you so much for bringing that to us. I’m glad that you are whole that you’re back with your family.
Matt: [01:10:17] Well, thank you very much.
Yeardley: [01:10:18] You saved God knows how many lives.
Matt: [01:10:21] I appreciate that. Thank you.
Yeardley: [01:10:23] Thank you.
Dave: [01:10:23] Yeah, thank you, Matt.
Dan: [01:10:25] Thank you.
Paul: [01:10:25] Thanks, Matt.
[Small Town Dicks theme playing]
Yeardley: [01:10:34] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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