By Debra Heine
November 28, 2023
A traditional Catholic family was allegedly “dragged out of their home at gunpoint, handcuffed and locked in a van” earlier this year after the FBI “goaded” their 15-year-old son to post “offensive memes” online. The teen, a volunteer firefighter and altar boy, was then hospitalized on mental health pretenses, according to his father, Jeremiah Rufini.
The FBI’s aggressive “investigation” only resulted in a misdemeanor conviction against the boy for breach of peace, but financially devastated the family with substantial legal expenses.
The FBI targeted the boy as part of a sting operation catfishing traditionalist Catholic teenagers with “extreme political content,” Rufini explained in the family’s GiveSendGo crowdfunding site.
The family’s difficulties began early in 2023 when Rufini’s father became too ill from chemotherapy to work at the family business or care for his 93 year-old grandmother who lives in an in-law apartment at his home.
The home-schooled 15 year-old took on the responsibility of caring for his great grandmother until his father got home from work each day.
“It was a very stressful time, compounded by several unrelated deaths in the family that happened in the same time period,” Rufini explained. The long hours alone with his grandmother led the boy, equipped with a brand new cell phone, to become ensnared in an FBI scheme targeting trad Catholics.
None of our children, including my son, had been raised with cell phones or unrestricted internet access. It became necessary for him to have a phone so we could communicate while he was alone at my father’s house caring for my grandmother, and so we reluctantly allowed him to have a cell phone. He spent a lot of time alone with nothing to do but wait and think and the cell phone became a welcome distraction. His interests in history and theology led him down a rabbit hole where he was recruited into group chats targeting teenage traditionalist Catholics with extreme political content. We later learned that these chats were being closely monitored, and possibly operated by, FBI agents as part of an effort to investigate Traditional Catholics that was downstream of a broader domestic investigation spurred by the events of January 6th.
Indeed, since the early days of the Biden regime, the DOJ has executed a policy of treating traditional Catholics and pro-lifers like violent domestic extremists.
Back in April, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to FBI Director Christopher Wray after learning that the Bureau planned to enlist sources at traditionalist Catholic churches as well as “mainline” (Novus Ordo) Catholic parishes to inform on purportedly radicalized fellow parishioners.
“We have repeatedly sought information from the FBI relating to a January 23, 2023 document generated by the Richmond Field Office entitled ‘Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities’ (FBI’s Richmond document),” Jordan wrote.
The memo claimed that there was a link between “radical-traditionalist Catholics” and “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”
Last March, when news of the memo first broke, Wray told lawmakers that he was “aghast” upon discovering the memo’s existence, and that the FBI “took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems.”
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked: “Attorney General, are you cultivating sources and spies in Latin mass parishes and other Catholic parishes around the country?”
“The Justice Department does not do that, it does not do investigations based on religion,” Garland responded. “I saw the document you have, it’s appalling, I’m in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and is now looking into how this could ever have happened.”
“I’ll tell you how it happened. This memorandum, which is supposed to be intelligence, cites extensively the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which goes on to identify all these different Catholics as being part of hate groups,” Hawley said. “Is this how the FBI under your direction and leadership does their intelligence work? They look at left-wing advocacy groups to target Catholics?!
Hawley added, “Is this what’s going on? Clearly it is. This is happening!”
“The FBI is not targeting Catholics, and as I’ve said, this is an inappropriate memorandum and it doesn’t reflect the methods the FBI is supposed to be using,” Garland insisted.
The FBI’s apparent entrapment operation into the young Rufini’s Catholic online chat group continued, however.
“My son is very stoic so we had no idea any of this was occurring,” Jeremiah Rufini explained. “He dutifully assisted my father during the day and went home in the evening while I took over at my father’s house.”
Unbeknownst to us, he was being drawn deeper and deeper into these chat groups and goaded into doing things like take pictures of himself in public wearing ski masks and to print out memes and leave them on picnic tables. They would ask him if he had access to guns (he would go target shooting under the supervision of my brother, who lived in an in-law apartment at our home and owned firearms) and encourage him to sneak photographs of the guns and post them. Ironically, our legal troubles began when he had an attack of conscience and abruptly deleted all of his chat apps. He later told us that he felt using social media was a coping mechanism and it had been affecting his mood and ability to sleep.
After the boy deleted the apps, the Bureau, according to Rufini, assumed that “he must have connected to a terror cell in real life and ‘gone dark’ ahead of some potential violent act.”
There was no such plan and they had no evidence of one, but it didn’t stop them from spending two weeks fabricating a legal pretense for a search warrant of our home. At 10:00pm on a Sunday evening we were dragged out of our home at gunpoint, handcuffed and locked in a van while they searched our home for evidence of this imagined plot. Having found no such evidence, they seized my brother’s firearms and had my son hospitalized on mental health pretenses.
Rufini professed that he was disappointed in his son’s “severe lack of judgement” online while noting that the FBI’s actions “seemed very disproportionate.”
We didn’t learn until that night the scope of the investigation or the amount of time and resources expended on my son. We know him to be a kind and conscientious boy who is active in his community and church. He is a volunteer firefighter and altar boy. He said some things we aren’t very happy with and showed a severe lack of judgement in his associations but the response seemed very disproportionate.
The FBI, Rufini said, lost interest in the case after it “became clear that there was no grand conspiracy or imminent danger.” The family however, has allegedly become financially destitute due to the legal fallout.
There was a Department of Children and Families investigation that went nowhere but required us to go to daily appointments for months. The state brought criminal charges against my son that were eventually disposed of but required a legal battle that lasted months. When his charges were disposed of, my brother and I were charged for allowing my son to target shoot based on the assumption that we must have somehow known that he was involved in political extremism online. It seems unlikely to amount to much but has cost us over $20,000 we don’t have so far.
“We are a working class family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck and bankruptcy is a near certainty,” Rufini wrote. “It will be a struggle to keep our home without help.”
I have been reluctant to seek help but the threat of losing our home has become very real. I work with the homeless for a faith-based non-profit organization, and my brother manages a family owned butcher shop. My wife stays at home and home schools our younger children while managing a small homestead. We are paying legal bills by not paying other bills.
Our credit is extended as far as it can go so our kids can have Christmas. The mortgage is a few weeks behind and we have zero breathing room for any unexpected expenses at this point. Our son is racked with guilt and believes himself to be at fault for our dire financial straits. While it is very humbling for me as someone who has always provided for others to ask for help, I know it is sometimes necessary and for us that time has come.
The Rufini family has already raised over $25,000 after setting a goal of $22,000.
“I am incredibly humbled and speechless,” Rufini wrote on GiveSendGo. “A day ago I was trying to figure out how to sell a 2001 Jetta parked in my lawn to catch up on my mortgage. We are incredibly blessed and moved and will pray for all of you.”