ALBANY — A Fulton County resident and downtown Gloversville business owner who’s been linked to white supremacist groups was arraigned in federal court Wednesday on the charge of conspiracy to commit an armed bank robbery at the Community National Bank in Johnstown.
Luke T. Kenna, 43, of Gloversville, is accused of plotting the bank heist and casing the bank during a two-week span in November.
Kenna has been in custody since being arrested in November on state-level ghost-gun charges by the Gloversville Police Department. On Wednesday, he was transported from Fulton County Jail to his arraignment on the new federal charges at the James T. Foley U.S. Courthouse in Albany.
The federal criminal complaint against Kenna and his alleged co-conspirator, Michael J. Brown Jr. of Pennsylvania, was partially unsealed Wednesday, after having been filed with the U.S. District Court Northern District of New York on Dec. 13. Also partially unsealed were warrants authorizing the investigation and arrest of the two men.
Court documents show that federal, state and local law enforcement began investigating Kenna and Brown in November for allegedly conspiring to commit the Community National Bank in Johnstown. As part of the conspiracy, Kenna and Brown conducted surveillance of the bank and purchased items, including weapons, to commit the robbery, according to federal prosecutors.
This case was investigated by the FBI Albany Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes FBI Special Agents, and federal, state and local investigators, including from the New York State Police. The FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and New York State Police Special Investigations Unit also provided assistance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Wentworth-Ping.
According to an affidavit accompanying the federal criminal complaint, Kenna and Brown worked together closely to plot the bank robbery. Investigators cited electronic communications on Kenna’s cell phone that they said show both Kenna and Brown worked together to further the conspiracy.
The acts included Kenna conducting surveillance on the bank Nov. 21 and Brown traveling from Pennsylvania Nov. 26, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit, completed by an FBI task force officer, describes Kenna as running a self-defense “primitive” survival skills business named Tyr Tactical Training in Gloversville.
The officer notes that Instagram profiles for both Kenna and Tyr “include images consistent with white supremacist ideology, including sonnenrad, pagan symbols/runes, confederate flags, pine tree symbols, and skulls, along with posts showing firearms, edged weapons, and other tactical and survival gear.”
Kenna was arrested Nov. 26, after he was stopped around 8 p.m. in front of 25 Bleecker St. by Gloversville Police on charges of third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle. The charging documents against Kenna show his driver’s license had been revoked since 2015.
New information about Kenna’s Nov. 26 arrest was included in the sworn affidavit unsealed Wednesday.
According to the affidavit:
Ferraro upon stopping Kenna immediately noted to dispatchers that there seemed to be disruptions in radio transmissions, like signals being jammed. The officer approached and noted he heard his dispatch communications being transmitted over a listening device inside the vehicle, which then stopped.
Kenna couldn’t provide identification. He wore all black and appeared to be wearing a ballistic vest under his jacket. The officer also saw a large knife and requested backup.
Kenna denied having weapons on him, but a pat frisk discovered a loaded gun and extra magazine in a holster on his waistband, the affidavit reads. Kenna wore a ballistic vest with a knife and he had a radio on his waistband.
Gloversville Police records show the weapon allegedly possessed by Kenna was an unmarked black in color 9mm handgun, known as a “Ghost Gun,” that was not registered and did not contain a serial number.
Police also found within reach in the vehicle a bag with a loaded six-round magazine, medical equipment for field injuries and a cell phone in a signal-blocking bag, along with knives, scarves and gloves.
Also on the passenger seat, officers found in plain view a notebook with handwritten notes and diary entries.
“Its coming up to the end of the year and I am flat broke with nothing but a gun and a dream,” one of the diary entries reads in part. “I’m going to fulfill my destiny one way or another. And it’s going to take bold action to do so. I have already set in motion a plan to start it all off.”
Kenna was charged with E Class felonies related to the body armor and ghost gun, and police seized his cell phone during the arrest. Investigators also soon got a search warrant for Kenna’s residence on Grand Street in Gloversville.
New York state Trooper Jason Manchuck, a member of the FBI task force, explained in the affidavit unsealed Wednesday, that information taken from Kenna’s cell phone showed Kenna and Brown performed overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to rob the bank, including Kenna conducting surveillance of the bank on Nov. 21 and Brown traveling from Pennsylvania to New York on Nov. 26.
Manchuck describes Kenna as running a self-defense “primitive” survival skills business named Tyr Tactical Training in Gloversville and notes that the Instagram profiles for both Kenna and Tyr “include images consistent with white supremacist ideology, including sonnenrad, pagan symbols/runes, confederate flags, pine tree symbols, and skulls, along with posts showing firearms, edged weapons, and other tactical and survival gear.”
Brown is described in the affidavit as the owner of a business called Black Market Tactical and Black Market Strength and Conditioning, which are believed to provide training and sell Brown’s homemade knives.
Kenna and Brown were closely associated, according to the affidavit, including co-planning a “Warrior’s Lodge” event that they wanted to hold at the Kingsboro Golf Course in October.
Kenna’s cell phone, seized Nov. 26, investigators found messages that included a group chat that included the worlds “Screenwriters Guild,” also referred to in a message as “the SS screenwriters Guild,” and Brown and Kenna as members of the chat. The chat also included two other individuals who were not named in the court documents unsealed Wednesday.
The chat included Kenna sending two screenshots of a map showing the route to the North Comrie Avenue bank. It also included further discussions of the plan, according to the affidavit.
At one point, Kenna sent an audio recording indicating he believed law enforcement “might be ‘keeping eyes’ on him,” the affidavit reads. If it became a problem, “we will not abort, we will just change plans. There is no aborting this,” Kenna allegedly said.
After further discussions, Brown wrote “IMO the key to success in this screenplay is demonstrating aggressive domination immediately.”
On Nov. 21, five days before his stop and arrest on the ghost-gun charge, Kenna allegedly sent an audio message to Brown indicating he was planning “a little side thing” at a bar and restaurant he used to work at that had an event going on after Thanksgiving to “throw some terror into them for payback and also to get some funds up because I’m pretty (expletive) broke. All my money is invested into everything I need for this thing we’re doing and a lot of other things.” He said he believed the restaurant would be “pretty good for at least a couple grand’, after the event he referenced.
The anticipated time of the restaurant burglary or robbery was that weekend, Nov. 26, the officer wrote in the affidavit.
On Wednesday Tanyalynnette Grimes, owner of the Kingsboro Golf Course, said she believes the bar and restaurant referenced by Kenna in the audio message was almost certainly her business, where she had once employed Kenna. She said the event he may have been referencing was the annual Festival of Hope free Thanksgiving meal charity event, which she said costs many thousands of dollars and does not involve any money coming into her restaurant.
“It’s terrifying, based on what he was dressed in, the weapons that he had, and the state of mind that he was definitely there to, as he said, inflict terror,” Grimes said. “We have an older population at the restaurant. We have workers. We have a sundry of things, and I have no idea what he planned on doing, but the idea that he was morally OK with inciting terror, because we chose to fire him, based on his own conduct.”
Kenna left his employment with the golf course May 3. Grimes said she had previously had a good relationship with Kenna, whom she said she met through his wife Raven Winchester-Kenna, operator of Freya’s Forest in downtown Gloversville.
“Her and I were starting to get to know each other, and we had a position that needed to be filled, he had a background … where he was on the road where he was doing bookings for groups, musical acts, so he had that background, and that was something we needed at the restaurant,” she said. “In the course of employing him, getting to know him, speaking about ideologies, things like that, it became apparent that his core beliefs and values were not in alignment with our core beliefs and values, so we parted ways. I was still very generous with him, as far as he didn’t qualify for paternity leave, so I paid her his paternity leave, out of my own pocket.
She said Kenna had skills she was in need of, including his ability to help groom the nature trails at the 68-acre property, but their differences led to her firing him, but he still had interest in her golf course after that.
“He was still was interested in pursing these things, and that’s when we discovered he was trying to do the Warrior Lodge event, who he was doing that lodge event (with), and that’s when we just totally ended our relationship with him,” she said. “We gave him a nice severance package, but he was still fired for gross misconduct.”
Grimes said she’s been in a state of terror since receiving an unexpected message from an entity called vinelink.com Wednesday at 12:32 p.m. explaining that Kenna had been released. According to the website Vinelink.com notifies victims when criminals they’ve been victimized by are released, which Kenna technically was for his court arraignment today, although he was remanded to law enforcement custody after not seeking a hearing to see if he would be granted bail today.
Grimes said the text message from vinelink.com was strange to her, because she’s never registered for that service.