THE LIVES OF Harry and Theresa Lamplugh were turned upside down on the morning of May 25, 1994. Early that day, 15-to-20 armed men and women burst into their rural Pennsylvania home. Under the threat of violence, the Lamplughs cooperated completely with the intruders as they opened safes, locks and cabinets. In spite of their compliance, however, Harry and Theresa were treated with contempt. Throughout the ordeal, a fully automatic machine gun was intermittently thrust in both their faces.
The Lamplughs watched in horror as the thugs literally trashed their home. Furniture was overturned or smashed and papers were scattered everywhere. Three pet cats were ruthlessly killed--one literally stomped to death. The gang ransacked their home for more than six hours. When they finally left, Harry and Theresa stood confused and angry in the midst of their demolished home.
The brutal and inhumane events that you have just read about are not fiction. They were taken from the testimony of Harry and Theresa Lamplugh. Only the intruders were not some violent street gang members or foreign terrorists; they were agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Why would two federal agencies send a small battalion of agents to terrorize this couple in the supposed safety of their home? What terrible crime did Harry and Theresa Lamplugh commit that prompted this brutal six-and-a half hour ordeal? Shockingly, there are no good answers to these questions.
Harry Lamplugh, however, is in the politically incorrect business of promoting gun shows. His organization, Borderline Gun Collectors Association, happens to be the largest gun show promoter in the Northeast. As anyone who has ever attended a gun show knows, there are more than firearms and accessories on display. A gun show is also a place where people of common interests meet to express their political views and share opinions. Not surprisingly, criticism of the BATF runs deep at such a forum. And it is no secret that the BATF spends considerable time and effort infiltrating these shows.
Since gun show infiltration is a massive undertaking that yields relatively small returns, the BATF has now honed in on a primary source, Harry Lamplugh. On May 23, 1994, the agencies obtained a search warrant authorizing both the BATF and the IRS to "search" the Lamplugh home. Included in the list of items to be seized were any firearms, ammunition, holsters, cleaning kits, gun cases and firearms accessories. The Lamplughs' attorney points out that the warrant failed to name even one specific item. "Such warrants are vague, overbroad and therefore unconstitutional," he said.
The agents also seized complete financial and business records of the Borderline Gun Collectors Association from 1988 to the present. This included all computer records and any other documents related to the sale and purchase of firearms. Obviously, the BATF was on some sort of "fishing expedition." But the most amazing aspect of the warrant is what was NOT on it. There was no reference to any crime by any person. The BATF appears to hold not only the Second Amendment in disdain, but the Fourth as well.
On Wednesday, May 25, 1994, the search warrant was executed. At about eight in the morning, Harry answered a knock on the front door and was instantly surrounded by agents. His wife was in the bathroom at the time. He had been sitting at the kitchen table in a pair of pajama bottoms, having his morning coffee. Unto this day I don't know exactly how many there were, but they had my house secured in seconds," Harry said. According to Lamplugh, there were a total of six cars full of agents. They were not dressed in any uniform, and only two had the identifying ATF vests on. All firearms were drawn. An M-P5 machine gun was stuck in Harry's face. They did not announce who they were or why they were there, and no search warrants were displayed. "When I asked if they had a search warrant, their first reply was 'shut the f___ up mother f___er; do you want more trouble than you already have?', with the machine gun stuck in my face." Harry said. "They then proceeded to tear my house apart."
The Lamplughs were not permitted to dress all day. "We couldn't even go to the bathroom without an armed guard, as if we were prisoners in our own home," says Mrs. Lamplugh. Then, like a slap in the face, the agents stopped everything to eat lunch. "They gave no thought to what we were going through. Some agents went out for pizza, and they had a little party. It was like a room full of kindergartners with no chaperon. They threw half-emptied soda cans, pizza and pizza boxes everywhere. To some people, maybe it sounds like we're complaining about a small thing, but this is our home and they trashed it."
The agents' reckless conduct at the "pizza party" characterized their behavior throughout the raid. "Because I have cancer, I usually have about 20 bottles of prescription drugs on top of my bureau. For some unknown reason, they thought it necessary to open the bottles and scatter the contents all over the floor. Consequently, two of our cats got into the medication and died horrible deaths."
The agents continued their aimless search. "Where's the machine gun" one of the agents asked. Finally, an indication they were looking for something in particular. "At first I didn't know what he meant," Harry said. "Then I recalled that I once owned a Vietnam commemorative Thompson, inlaid in 22 karat gold, but that was a semi-automatic. One of the agents then responded, 'That must be what they're talking about.'" The agents were apparently looking for something that wasn't even there, or illegal to possess."
However, they were very thorough in sifting through what was there. But for what reason did the agents take marriage and birth certificates, school records, insurance information, vehicle registrations and titles? Harry points out that "they were so thorough that for about two weeks we would have had a hard time proving who we were. They took all of our contacts with newspapers (Over 600), all friends and family phone numbers, and even my medical records." There were 61 firearms and assorted ammo seized in the raid, valued at over $15,000. The agents took about 70,000 names and addresses of exhibitors and also gun show contracts through the year 2000. A stack of mail was opened, read and also confiscated.
Finally, at about three o'clock, the wrecking crew finished their destruction. In one final unconscionable act, female agent Donna Slusser deliberately stomped to death a cherished Manx kitten, and kicked it under a tree.
The affidavit in support of the warrant was made by BATF special agent Scott Endy. For reasons unknown to the Lamplughs, the affidavits were sealed by a local federal judge. An Assistant United States Attorney was asked by the Lamplughs' attorney to unseal the document, but he has steadfastly refused to do so.
The persecution Harry and Theresa have endured has been extremely harsh. At no time was this peaceful couple informed of any violation of the law, and to this day no charges have been brought against the Lamplughs. Yet, the BATF has refused to return any property, even medical records and other personal documents and possessions.
The actions of the men and women who entered the Lamplughs' home must not be ignored or forgotten. The Lamplughs are victims, not suspects, in this matter, and this is but one of the many examples of the BATF's abuse of its power through the years. This government brutality must be stopped.
I have been in communication with Gun Owners of America and Mrs. Lamplugh. Attached is the additional information thus obtained - in all cases with specifically-requested and specifically-granted permission to reproduce anywhere, by any means, in any media, so long as the content is unedited. I also grant similar permission for my writings.
Addresses: Theresa and John Lamplugh RD 2, Box 172, Wellsboro, PA 16901 Phone: 717-724-7918 FAX: 717-724-4992 John A Fielding III 532 Elm St., Reading, PA 19601 Attorney for Lamplughs in PA 215-374-8359 Robert E. Sanders 7125 Sixteenth St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20012 Attorney for Lamplughs in DC 202-723-2998 Gun Owners of America 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102 Springfield, VA 22151 703-321-8585 G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show (address unknown) Phone: 1-800-GGLIDDYCourt Reference: Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 3:MI-94-88-01 and 3:MI-94-88-02, "U.S. vs. A Quantity of Misc. Firearms, Assorted Ammo and Other Property."At approximately 9:00PM EDT this date I called the above phone number. A female answered who identified herself as Theresa Lamplugh. I cannot verify this but perhaps someone closer to the specified location can do so. Mrs. Lamplugh answered all my questions after I explained the reason for my call. She also said she would make available through her attorney any other information about the case that might be desired. She says that she and her husband are customarily home Monday through Thursday and that anyone is welcome to call or visit in person to verify her identity and check the validity of her story. Mrs. Lamplugh says that her home is isolated "on a mountaintop" - she compared it to Ruby Ridge - but that she and her husband are known in Wellsboro and that anyone there would be able to provide road directions to their home, or visitors may phone her for directions to the house. Please identify yourself as having heard of the Lamplugh's via the Internet if you choose to do this. MRS. LAMPLUGH VERIFIED THE ACCOUNT OF BATF ACTIVITIES CONTAINED HEREIN. In fact, that account is part of the Lamplugh's filings against the BATF.
Mrs. Lamplugh goes on to make the following claims/statements/allegations (I represent these only as the statements I heard during a phone conversation with someone identifying herself as Mrs. Lamplugh but otherwise unknown to me - I am not and never have been acquainted or connected with the Lamplughs in any way aside from this single telephone conversation):
1. The Lamplugh's have received late-night threatening phone calls from anonymous individuals identifying themselves only as "federal employees" in which the caller stated that if the Lamplughs didn't "button their lip" they would "be dead". 2. After having an expert check their telephone line they were advised that it appeared to be tapped. 3. They have been told by other parties that the ATF appears to be working through the list of names seized from the Lamplugh in an attempt to intimidate individuals into "confessing" to participating in illegal acts with the Lamplughs. 4. The ATF has adopted a tactic of stalling in the hope that Harry Lamplugh, a terminal cancer patient, will die and the whole matter will "blow over". Mrs. Lamplugh indicates that she has been told that this may be the Lamplugh's last Christmas together. 5. A reporter for the "Our Town" show, running on Harrisburg Cable Co. out of Malvern, PA did a 30-minute show on the raid and was subsequently subjected to attempts at intimidation aimed at preventing airing of the show. (Mrs. Lamplugh has the name of the reporter as I recall, but I didn't get it). Mrs. Lamplugh is has a copy of a tape of this show. 6. Threats were received after appearing on Channel 16, Scranton, PA and after speaking on the G. Gordon Liddy radio talk show. 7. To this date, the affdavits supporting the search warrants remain sealed.W. K. (Bill) Gorman
March 27, 1996 NATION p. A6
By Andy ThibaultTHE WASHINGTON TIMES
Two years ago, Pennsylvania gun-show promoter Harry Lamplugh says,federal agents stomped his cat to death, then stole his wife'sjewelry and his children's report cards.
"My only hope," Mr. Lamplugh said yesterday, "is that someday in acourtroom I can say what these people are all about. I'm up againstprofessional witnesses and liars, and I don't believe justice willever be served. But I hope I'm fooled."
Mr. Lamplugh says he is just one of a growing list of politicallyincorrect victims targeted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco andFirearms. His attorney, a former head of ATF's criminal enforcementdivision, said he and Mr. Lamplugh will show in court the results ofthe agency's "all-out war" against gun owners.
"There is an indiscriminate focus on anyone who owns guns," said Mr.Lamplugh's Washington lawyer, former ATF agent Robert Sanders. "They arein total consonance with the Clinton administration's anti-gun positionsand with the gun-control groups."
Mr. Sanders said yesterday he is preparing to file a civil suit in Aprilagainst ATF, the Pennsylvania State Police and other government agencies.
Last June, as a result of the raid, Mr. Lamplugh was indicted andcharged with conspiracy to sell guns without a license and possession offirearms by a convicted felon. Mr. Lamplugh maintains he promotes gun showsbut does not actually sell firearms. He was accused of stealing cigarettesas a teen-ager but was never convicted and so is not barred from possessingfirearms, he said.
Mr. Sanders said no date has been set for the criminal case, which willbe heard in Scranton.
ATF agents raided Mr. Lamplugh's Wellsboro, Pa., home in May 1994,waving automatic weapons and damaging property, Mr. Lamplugh said. Theagents stayed for eight hours, including a break for a pizza party.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the search was conducted in a low-key,orderly and professional manner. ATF denies killing the cat but does notdispute that $18,000 worth of the Lamplughs' property was seized.
Mr. Lamplugh said ATF was searching for records of people who sell gunsthrough the 40 shows he promotes in the Eastern United States each yearand for the names of the 70,000 members of the Borderline Gun CollectorsAssociation, which his family runs.
As a result of the raid, Mr. Lamplugh's wife and son were also indicted.The son, John Lamplugh, is charged with possessing an unregisteredsawed-off shotgun. The wife, Theresa Lamplugh, is charged with conspiracyto violate various firearms laws and with one count of perjury.
The Lamplugh case and others like them have become fodder for theNational Rifle Association, which has distributed information andliterature on the facts of each incident and has included them in adsnationwide.
Formed in 1972 by the Treasury Department to enforce federal laws onalcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives, ATF has been the subject ofgrowing criticism since it initiated the deadly February 1993 raid atthe Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
Since Waco, some Treasury officials, including a number of front-lineATF agents, have suggested that the agency be merged with other federallaw enforcement bureaus or that it be reorganized under new leadership.
Other events have also kept ATF in the public spotlight, includingthe August 1992 killing by federal agents in Idaho of the wife and sonof white separatist Randall Weaver.
UPDATE The BATF now claims that all agencies that invaded the Lamplugh's home acted properly and in accordance with law and procedure. They further claim that Mr. Lamplugh was a felon in posession of firearms. Given recent events, one has to wonder if this is a real felon, or merely another "felony jaywalking" that BATF loves to invent, with help from pliable federal judges.
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