Former sheriff candidate pretends to be Mexican drug cartel to extort his own right-wing militia
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Former Washington state candidate for sheriff is now currently wanted for allegedly trying to extort members of his right-wing militia group with fake threats from a Mexican drug cartel.

According to The Spokesman-Review, a nationwide arrest warrant has been issued for James “Russell” Bolton for extortion and other crimes, totaling six charges.

Bolton was accused of pushing an associate down a flight of stairs and attempting to suffocate the man with a plastic bag. Bolton allegedly said that his wife had been kidnapped and was being held for a $100,000 ransom.

Bolton ran as a write-in candidate for the Sheriff's Office in 2010, but he had an enthusiastic endorsement from former Sheriff Richard Mack. The former Graham County, Arizona sheriff became a famous right-wing activist in the 1990s and was recruited by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to sue the government over gun restrictions.

“I pray for the day when a constitutional sheriff, and maybe it will be Russell Bolton … will know and understand that it will be his duty to arrest a couple of IRS agents,” Mack said in a 2010 speech.

Stevens County sheriff's deputies spent two months working to track down the source of the threatening letters to the right-wing militia group and others. One man accused of getting a letter that was taped outside of his girlfriend's home. Another woman down the road found a similar letter attached to a tree in her yard. The letters threatened physical harm if they didn't hand over $10,000.

“The author of the letters claimed to be an organization from outside of the United States and insinuated that it was likely from a Mexican cartel,” a detective assigned to the case wrote.

The letters instructed them to put an envelope of cash in their mailbox. One couple faked it, stuffing the envelope full of powder that would dye the scam artist's hands purple. They set up a hidden camera and waited for the result.

The video revealed a small white SUV, but the cameras didn't show enough to identify the suspect. The man also noted he tried to chase the SUV but couldn't keep up.

Another couple got a threatening letter saying they'd be killed if they didn't pay $250,000 in two weeks.

“I could see that they were scared,” Undersheriff Loren Erdman wrote in his report.

Sheriff's deputies ultimately realized two men knew Bolton through a local assembly meeting. Bolton attempted to throw them off the trail by saying he received threatening phone calls but brushed them off.

“I was advised numerous times of Bolton’s military background, counter-insurgency training, him being a private investigator and working with various law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and Virginia, and the fact that he currently trains members of the Stevens County Assembly in hand-to-hand combat,” the detective said in the report.

Bolton blamed another man instead. He then later called the detective to report threatening emails, but when asked to see them, Bolton said his computer was hacked and "was unstable."

Bolton ultimately gave up on attacking others and then moved to claim his wife was kidnapped. He then wrote two "paranoid" emails to the survivor if his assault.

“Contact me when the transaction is ready,” court records quote Bolton. “Be discreet. They are calling me every day and following me everywhere.”

Deputies have been searching for Bolton but have yet to locate him.

Read the full report at The Spokesman-Review.