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Feds: Guardsman stole military IDs for militia

Dec. 12, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Michael Novak faces federal fraud charges in connection with the theft of names, Social Security numbers and security clearance levels of roughly 400 members of his former Army unit in Fort Bragg, N.C. The Iraq war veteran intended to use the confidential material to create fake IDs for his militia, court documents say.
Michael Novak faces federal fraud charges in connection with the theft of names, Social Security numbers and security clearance levels of roughly 400 members of his former Army unit in Fort Bragg, N.C. The Iraq war veteran intended to use the confidential material to create fake IDs for his militia, court documents say. (Sherburne County, Minn., Sheriff / via AP)
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MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota National Guardsman and Iraq War veteran charged with fraud for allegedly stealing personal information of roughly 400 members of his former Army unit had worked in intelligence, where he likely was responsible for analyzing enemy information.

Keith Michael Novak, 25, planned to use the names, Social Security numbers and other information he allegedly stole to create fake identities for members of his militia group. He also wanted to sell the information for money to expand his radio communications capability, according to an affidavit and complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

The affidavit said he also took combat gear from his former unit at Fort Bragg, N.C., including flak jackets, and gave them to fellow militia members.

Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, an Army spokeswoman, said in an email that, in general, "appropriate precautionary actions will be taken in this matter."

Novak, of Maplewood, was in federal custody Thursday and unavailable for comment. The federal defender's office has the case, but no attorney had been chosen to represent him by Thursday evening.

His father, whose home was searched Wednesday, has an unlisted number. Attempts to reach him Thursday by phone and email were unsuccessful.

According to the affidavit, Novak was an active-duty soldier and intelligence analyst with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg from Feb. 26, 2009, to Sept. 3, 2012, and served in Iraq in 2010. He is currently a human intelligence analyst with the Minnesota National Guard, serving one weekend a month.

When Novak was in the Army, he would have been responsible for giving military personnel information about enemy strengths and weaknesses, and potential battle areas. Other duties typically include assessing incoming information and preparing maps, charts and intelligence reports, according to a job description on the Army's website.

His part-time job with the Minnesota National Guard is similar, but that job description also includes interrogations and other duties.

Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a Minnesota National Guard spokesman, said the Guard is cooperating with the FBI investigation and he knows of no disciplinary action on Novak's Guard record.

According to the affidavit, Novak went to a training camp in Utah in January and met two undercover FBI employees who posed as members of a Utah-based militia.

Novak told the undercover employees that if they came to Minnesota, he would train them on military intelligence-related tasks, including the creation of "target packages." Novak also said he'd taken classified materials from Fort Bragg and would share the information with them, the document said.

In July, the undercover FBI employees came to Minnesota, where Novak gave them an electronic copy of classified documents and taught them how to encrypt files, the affidavit said.

The undercover employees said they knew someone who could make fake IDs, which Novak said he needed for his militia.

Novak sent the identification information for 44 individuals from his former unit to an undercover FBI employee on Nov. 4, and a couple weeks later accepted $2,000, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit gave some details about Novak's militia activities — alleging he used a cellphone and laptop to encrypt radio communications, attended military-style training in rural Minnesota and slept with guns and threatened to shoot at authorities if arrested.

Suzanne Fackler, a neighbor of Novak's father, said Novak and his dad moved into her Wayzata neighborhood in 2006, when Novak was 17. The younger Novak no longer lives there and she said she last saw him in the summer of 2012, when he was running with a backpack that he told her weighed 60 to 80 pounds.

"He was jogging with the dog, and he was doing it every day just to keep in shape," she said. "He's a good kid ... a friendly guy."

She said she was surprised by the allegations, adding: "It knocked me off my feet."

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