Ex-militiaman is sentenced for document fraud

Cole regretful, says he has changed

Toledo Blade, September 16, 2008

Ronald Cole acknowledges his criminal past - one full of federal crimes, membership with the militia, and an overwhelming distrust of the government.

Yesterday, the 39-year-old former member of the Branch Davidians appeared in U.S. District Court in Toledo where he pledged a new philosophy and changed behavior.

After pleading guilty to 12 counts of falsifying identification documents and two counts of wire fraud, Cole was sentenced to 27 months in prison on each count, to run concurrently. Before sentencing, Cole said that the identification crimes were a part of his former "quasi-subversive lifestyle" and that he now no longer has the same fears.

"I've been living in a state of fear," Cole told Judge Jack Zouhary, referring specifically to fears of "government takeover" and suppression of religious freedoms. "I've always been fearful that the door may be kicked in for some reason, as irrational as that may sound."

Cole was arrested Nov. 20 on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where his wife attended school. He was extradited to Ohio where he faced the wire fraud and false identification charges.

According to the indictment filed Nov. 7, Cole created three false Colorado driver's licenses, five false U.S. Social Security cards, three false birth certificates from New York, and one state of Ohio temporary identification card.

Additionally, Cole was convicted of submitting false car loan applications to local dealerships. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Uram, the applications inflated his annual income to more than $100,000, when he was in reality making about half of that.

With the loans given to him by Capital One Auto Finance based on the false information, Cole purchased two "high-end" cars in December, 2005, from Vin Devers automobile dealership in Sylvania and from Yark Automotive Group in Toledo.

Yesterday's appearance was not Cole's first in federal custody.

In 1997, he was arrested by federal agents on charges that he possessed illegal weapons.

The following year he pleaded guilty to four federal counts of illegally possessing machine guns for which he spent more than two years in prison.

It was during that time that Cole was a self-proclaimed member of the militia and supporter of people such as David Koresh, the onetime leader of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and Timothy McVeigh, the convicted bomber of the Oklahoma City federal building.

He was also reported to be the founder of militia groups known as the Colorado Light Infantry and North American Liberation Army.

Yesterday, Cole said he is now a husband and father of a young son and hoped that he would serve his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio, near Youngstown so that he could be near his family who have since relocated to Ohio.

Judge Zouhary said he hoped that Cole lives up to his promises of reform, adding that any return to the judge's courtroom would mean a potentially harsher outcome.

"I wish you the best," Judge Zouhary said. "I sincerely hope you succeed and that the final chapter in your life's story will be different from the first pages of your life's story."

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