Right-wing Militia Leader Accused Of Trying To Extort His Own Members By Pretending To Be Mexican Cartel

A man holds a machine gun. A right-wing militia group leader has been accused of trying to extort money from his own members. Getty

A nationwide arrest warrant has reportedly been issued for a former Stevens County sheriff candidate, who has been accused of trying to extort members of his own right-wing militia group by pretending to be a Mexican drug cartel.

James "Russell" Bolton faces at least six charges of extortion and attempted theft, according to The Seattle Times and The Spokesman-Review.

The 51-year-old has been accused of attempting to extort members of his former militia group, called the Stevens County Assembly, by penning anonymous threatening letters appearing to be sent from a Mexican cartel.

Records filed last month in Stevens County Superior Court also accuse Bolton of having pushed an associate down a flight of stairs and trying to suffocate him with a plastic bag. Bolton stopped the assault, but then reportedly tried to persuade the associate to hand over $100,000 to him after claiming that his wife had been kidnapped and he needed the money to pay ransom.

The letters allegedly sent out by Bolton threatened their recipients with harm to themselves and their families if they did not pay out large amounts of money.

In one case, a militia member found a letter taped to a gate outside his girlfriend's house. The letter had instructed the couple to leave an envelope with the $10,000 in their mailbox. Instead of cash, however, the couple filled the envelope with a theft-detection powder meant to turn the culprit's skin purple, while also setting up a hidden camera outside.

The couple shared the video they captured with deputies, but the blurry video did not prove to be enough to identify a suspect or the small white SUV pictured.

When a similar case was reported, this time demanding $250,000 within 15 days, detectives realized that both men who had been targeted in the letters knew Bolton through Stevens County Assembly meetings.

Officers interviewed Bolton, who told them he himself had been targeted by threatening phone calls and emails. But, when asked to send over the emails, the Stevens County Assembly leader claimed that his computer had been hacked and rendered unusable.

It was after learning about the letters that detectives were later notified of the alleged incident in which Bolton allegedly pushed another Stevens County Assembly member down a flight of stairs.

According to the Times, Stevens County Superior Judge Jessica Reeves approved Bolton's arrest warrant on April 22 after a nearly two-month investigation. As of Friday morning, however, Bolton had yet to be arrested.

An archived version of Bolton's now-defunct Steven County Assembly's website shows the group's last organized events took place in September 2016.

The website's home page states that the group is a "volunteer, independent body of God-fearing American citizens who have realized the changing conditions" and are "seeking to prepare and equip all who will heed with the knowledge and ability to protect family and property."

"Our website is designed for the serious Patriot who wishes to rise above the conditions and increase their critical thinking skills," the website says.