RANSON – A 30-year-old man allegedly associated with an anti-government militia group has been indicted on federal firearm charges for allegedly manufacturing and selling plastic parts out of his Ranson apartment that were made to convert AR-15 semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.
Timothy John Watson, who was living in an apartment house on South Marshall Street in Ranson, was arrested Nov. 2 on four firearms-related charges. A federal grand jury indicted him Tuesday on the charges, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
The FBI alleges Watson operated an online business selling plastic components to illegally convert AR-15-style rifles into machine guns. The plastic parts, made from a 3D printer and sold over a website under the domain portablewallhanger.com, were sold as “wall hooks” to hang keys, lanyards, coats and other light-weight items, according to a criminal complaint.
The two-piece wall hooks were made to be disassembled to allow one piece to function as a banned “drop-in auto sear” to change a semiautomatic rifle into an illegal machine gun, according to the FBI.
Since January, Watson reportedly advertised his wall hooks for sale on Facebook pages for Boogaloo extremists, a loosely affiliated militia-like political group that advocates the violent overthrow of the government. Known for harboring grievances over gun-control measures, the group has adopted Boogaloo as a term referring to a violent uprising or second American civil war that its members hope to incite.
Known to associate and organize online, Boogaloo followers have allegedly wounded and killed multiple law enforcement officials across the United States, according to the FBI.
Since March, Watson reportedly sold more than 600 of the plastic auto sears for about $15 each from his website, according to court records.
Based on an investigation that includes alleged evidence from email and online accounts and a “self-professed Boogaloo follower,” the FBI complaint maintains that several connections to Watson’s website business were made to the Boogaloo movement. One of Watson’s customers was reportedly a California man accused of shooting members of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and two Oakland courthouse security guards in May and June of this year. A guard and a police officer were killed in the shootings and other officers were wounded.
The criminal complaint also alleges Watson’s advertisements stated that a portion of the sales of his wall hooks would contribute to a "Justice for Duncan Lemp" fundraising site for a Potomac, Maryland, man killed during a no-knock police warrant execution. Lemp has been described as a martyr for the Boogaloo movement, according to the FBI.
Evidence showed Watson made three payments totaling $300 to the fundraising site, according to court documents.
Watson faces charges of conspiracy, illegally possessing and transferring a machine gun, illegally possessing a firearm silencer and unlawfully engaging in the business of manufacturing firearms, according to an FBI criminal complaint filed in federal court in Martinsburg.
Watson was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon on the grand jury charges after the Spirit’s deadline. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas had requested a hearing to ask that Watson, who was being held at the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, be held jailed before his trial.
The Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force assisted with the FBI investigation leading to Watson’s arrest and charges, according to Ranson police, a member of the undercover law enforcement group.