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Two Minnesota militia cases are related, federal prosecutors say

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MINNEAPOLIS — Federal officials confirmed that the case of a man convicted of possessing bombs is connected to that of a Minnesota Army National Guard member now charged with identity theft involving military ID documents.

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In a notice filed Thursday morning, a prosecutor said the cases of Buford “Bucky” Rogers and Keith Novak were related.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter wrote that the cases arose “out of the same operative set of facts, behavioral episode or course of conduct,” and that they arose “out of the same investigation.”

When an FBI agent questioned Rogers after his arrest last year, he told them about a man named “Keith” who was with the National Guard.

Until Winters filed his notice, though, the government had declined to say if the cases were related.

Rogers, 25, of Montevideo, Minn., is awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty last month to being a felon in possession of a handgun and of building and possessing two black powder-and-nails bombs.

After an FBI SWAT team raided the Montevideo trailer park where Rogers’ parents lived, they claimed he and his parents were members of the Black Snake Militia, a paramilitary group planning an imminent attack on a National Guard armory, the city’s police station and a radio tower used by law enforcement.

As it turned out, the Black Snake Militia’s membership was limited to Rogers and his family and perhaps a couple of other people, one of whom left the group and turned informant. Despite the claims of a planned attack, Rogers was never accused of any terrorism-related crimes.

Novak, 25, of Maplewood, was charged in December after he allegedly offered to sell a list of service members’ names and other information to two men working undercover for the FBI; the men posed as members of a Utah-based militia.

On Thursday, the government also filed a felony information against Novak, accusing him of a single count of identity theft. The charge replaces the earlier criminal complaint, which alleged fraud involving government records.

Novak had worked in intelligence with the Army’s 82nd Airborne and left active duty service in September 2012. After that, he joined the Minnesota Army National Guard, and was again assigned to intelligence duties.

He was also the self-proclaimed commander of a Minnesota militia known as the 44th Spatha Libertas, Latin for “Sword of Freedom.” When agents raided his apartment, they seized five weapons, 1,000 rounds of loaded ammunition and 4,000 rounds of loose ammo, the FBI said.

At a court hearing after Novak was charged, an FBI agent said the list Novak offered for sale included service members’ names, Social Security numbers and other data. The agent said the information could be used to make fake IDs that could be used to enter military bases or the National Security Agency’s massive Utah Data Center.

Like Rogers, Novak has not been charged with a terrorism-related offense, nor has he been charged with possessing classified information. The charge filed against him Thursday alleges that between July 1 and Dec. 9 of last year, he “did knowingly transfer, possess, and use” Social Security numbers and birthdates of other people with intent to commit a federal crime.

The crime he was intended to break, the document alleges, was “improper use of a Social Security number.”

At a detention hearing for Novak, an FBI agent acknowledged that the idea of buying the secret list originated with the bureau’s two undercover employees, not Novak.

The investigation into Novak began before Rogers was arrested in May. The criminal complaint against Novak said he met the undercover operatives in March in Utah, where Novak was undergoing specialized counterintelligence training.

The complaint also refers to phone conversations, meetings and militia training exercises that took place June through November. He was taken into custody when the criminal complaint was filed Dec. 11.

On the day Rogers was taken into custody in May, he told an FBI agent about militia activities and people he knew who may be involved in them.

Rogers offered to help the agent “catch bad people,” but also said militias contained plenty of nonviolent “good guys.” One of them he mentioned was “Keith” — he gave no last name — who he said was with the National Guard and worked in intelligence.

“All-around nice guy,” Rogers said of Novak. “Paid for gas last time we went up to the (Twin) Cities.”

Both men remain in custody.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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