- Ray Epps traveled to Washington DC to support President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
- He was later linked to a conspiracy theory alleging that the feds instigated the Capitol riots.
- He told the New York Times in an interview that he had to sell his business and home and go into hiding.
Ray Epps, a Marine veteran and business owner from Arizona, traveled to Washington, D.C. to show his support for former President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
And although he was not among the hundreds of Capitol rioters who were arrested and charged, the events that followed destroyed his life, he said.
Epps, 61, became the center of a conspiracy theory, pushed by the former president himself, that would force him to sell his business and his home and go into hiding, according to an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday. .
“And for what—a lie?” Epps told The Times. “All this, it’s been hell.”
The baseless theory stemmed from efforts by some on the right to foment a Capitol riot over federal agents, who they claimed wanted a reason to provoke a crackdown on conservatives.
A video Epps, taken on Jan. 5, showed him and other Trump supporters visiting the Capitol the next day. Epps was never arrested, prompting right-wing Internet sleuths to accuse him of trying to spread violence as an undercover FBI agent or informant — even though videos show Epps urging others to remain peaceful and trying to defuse clashes between police and rioters in January. 6.
The theory was eventually picked up by right-wing media and Republican politicians, including Rep. Thomas Massey and Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, among others. Trump himself mentioned Epps at a rally in January, suggesting he might be working for the Fed.
Epps told the Times that he and his wife began receiving death threats via email and people trespassing on their property starting in October, when the right-wing site Revolver News first published a story about it. The attacks intensified after Carlson and lawmakers aired the claims.
Epps eventually finds shell casings on his property and receives a letter, possibly a hoax, from Mexican cartel members planning to kill him. He sold his business and home, lost several thousand dollars, and moved into a mobile home somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He agreed to be interviewed by The Times as long as his current location is not disclosed.
“I’m at the center of this thing, and it’s the biggest farce ever,” he said. “It’s not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal.”
The FBI has not publicly commented on whether Epps was working with them or why he was not charged.
Epps said he never entered the Capitol and told the Times that he immediately contacted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center two days after the Capitol riots, when he learned they had flagged him on a be-on-the-lookout alert. The outlet obtained his phone records confirming that he had spoken with the FBI and obtained transcripts from additional interviews.
Epps was also questioned by the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riots in November and told them he was not affiliated with the FBI, Politico reported.