FBI: Valrico man wanted for making destructive devices
By WFLA.com web staff
Martin Howard Winters
Law enforcement vehicles at the scene of the search for Winters
FBI searching in Lithia
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -
?FBI agents are looking for a Valrico man who is the head of a doomsday preppers group, and is accused of making destructive devices.
Around 8:40 a.m. on Monday, agents tried to approach Martin Howard Winters, who is the subject of an FBI investigation.
Agents say Winters is a "prepper", who is preparing for the end of the world as described by the Book of Revelations in the Bible.
The first thing visitors to the neighborhood near Martin Winter's home may notice is a huge, white flagpole, with large platform.The 10 commandments are inscribed beneath, and "In God We Trust" is in bold letters.
Documents show Winters is the leader of a group called the River Otter Preppers, and that Winters was making "destructive devices".
They say when agents tried to approach Winters on Monday, he drove away, then abandoned his car and ran.
(READ the full text of the search warrant for Winters' property here)
Rene Leach fears things could go bad. She’s known Winters for more than 40 years.
“That man cares for his friends and his family and that's all he's trying to do is protect them. He's not out to get anybody,” said Leach.
A federal search warrant spells out why the FBI raided Winters’ house on Williams Road. It says preparations include men stationed along the river, to look for government boats.
Documents also show Winters illegally used "straw buyers" to purchase multiple AR-15 rifles, which he buried in strategic locations on his properties. Winters also told an undercover FBI employee that he would booby-trap trees on his property to repel government agents.
Agents say several other people were arrested in this case. Documents state Winters told the undercover FBI agent that he has forty men in the neighborhood that are "willing to shoot".
Neighbors in the area say the man they know is not capable of violence.
“He ain't out to kill nobody, not in the United States anyhow. You know what I mean?” said Warren Sanderson.
In the search warrant, an undercover FBI employee says Winters told him "if the government gives him enough time, it will be worse than Waco".
Here are the names and charges for the ROP members mentioned in FBI documents:
Martin Howard Winters: making and possessing destructive devices
Michael Keith Bonta: making and possessing destructive devices
James Bruce Beebe: felon in possession of a firearm, making false written statement to a licensed firearms dealer
Desiree Nikkole Beebe: felon in possession of a firearm, making false written statement to licensed firearms dealer
Jason Michael Swain: felon in possession of firearm, making false written statement to licensed firearms dealer
Nicholas Ryan Hall: felon in possession of firearm, making false written statement to licensed firearms dealer