A Proud Boys leader acquired a lookalike's passport to possibly flee the country following Capitol attack, court documents say

  • A new court filing details the weeks-long planning by Proud Boys members ahead of the Capitol siege.
  • One of the organization’s leaders obtained a lookalike passport to possibly flee, documents say.
  • The leader of the far-right group told agents the passport belonged to his wife’s ex-boyfriend.
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One Capitol rioter may have been planning a duplicitous international getaway following the January 6 siege.

Ethan Nordean, a leader in the far-right, white supremacist organization the Proud Boys, obtained a valid US Passport issued to someone who looked like him and kept it near his bed with his wife’s passport, new court documents said. 

In a pre-trial detention filing made on Monday for Nordean, prosecutors detailed the months-long tactical preparations members of the Proud Boys made in advance of the assault on the Capitol Building at the beginning of this year.

Nordean helped plan and fundraise for the group’s role in the Capitol insurrection starting as far back as November 4, the court filing said.

After the Proud Boys’ leader, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested in DC days before the siege, the organization nominated Nordean to take “ultimate leadership” of the group’s activities on the day of the attack and granted him “war powers,” prosecutors said. 

The night before the attack, prosecutors say the Seattle-based leader instructed his fellow Proud Boys to wear dark clothes and avoid the colors typically associated with members of the extremist group.

On the day of the riots, Nordean, dressed in all black and wearing a tactical vest, instructed his fellow members to use encrypted communications and the military-style equipment they had acquired. He then issued specific orders: “Split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results,” prosecutors said.

The 30-year-old was arrested weeks later, on February 3, for his role in planning and participating in the deadly attacks. 

But Monday’s court filings reveal new details about Nordean’s pre-siege planning and his post-siege arrest.

Prosecutors allege that law enforcement agents discovered a valid US passport issued to a Nordean lookalike during the execution of a search warrant. Federal agents reportedly found the passport on a dresser on Nordean’s side of the bed in the master bedroom, along with Nordean’s wife’s passport. 

Officials did not find any passport for Nordean during their search.

Prosecutors described the “obvious explanation” for the dubious passport — that Nordean “entertained at least the possibility of traveling on the passport after he led a group of Proud Boys members in the Capitol riot, and after several of the Proud Boys members that followed his lead were arrested by the FBI…”

Instead, Nordean offered his own explanation for the document.

The Proud Boys leader told agents that the passport belonged to his wife’s ex-boyfriend, and that she had kept the document as a “keepsake” after the relationship ended. His wife then allegedly took the keepsake passport with her when she moved into a new home with her husband, Nordean, and she “just happened” to keep the passport with her own passport, “on top of a clothes dresser on [Nordean’s] side of the bed in the master bedroom.” 

Prosecutors argued in the court filing that the anecdote proves Nordean is a serious flight risk and “danger to the community,” and as such, should be detained before his trial.

“As noted previously, should [Nordean] obtain his release and acquire another such passport, it would be exceedingly difficult to catch him and ensure his presence for trial,” the filing said.

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