A U.S. citizen residing in Thailand was arrested by the authorities on charges of making death threats against former U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R), Thom Tillis (R), and U.S. Marines. United States Attorney Michael Easley for the Eastern District of North Carolina confirmed the arrest.
Eric Charles Welton, aged 51, is an American citizen who currently lives in Thailand. He is accused of repeatedly making harassing and intimidating phone calls to the offices of Republican elected officials and affiliated organizations in the United States. Welton stated that he had been receiving a large number of unsolicited political emails.
According to court documents from September 2021, Welton allegedly spoke with a staff member at the Raleigh offices of Tillis and Burr and made threats to physically harm them, mentioning that he would shoot each of them in the head. The complaint further reveals that Welton also threatened to harm the person responsible for sending him the unwanted emails by cutting off their hands.
“Our elected representatives and the public servants who staff their offices must be free to do the people’s work without threats of violence. Violent threats against our democratically elected representatives do not just erode our civil discourse – they can undermine our democracy. We will hold accountable anyone who threatens violence targeting our bedrock institutions.”
During the months of October and November 2022, Welton initiated a series of threats targeting U.S. Marines and individuals employed at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In a recorded voicemail, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), Welton expressed his intention to cause harm by stating his desire to kill a group of Marines, citing his anger towards an immigration matter.
A U.S. citizen living in Thailand was arrested on charges of threatening to murder North Carolina Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis along with their staffs because he was angry about receiving a huge number of unsolicited political emails. https://t.co/7ICn1YuNJ8— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) May 30, 2023
In November 2021, FBI agents conducted an interview with Richard Welton, the father of Eric Charles Welton. During the interview, Richard informed the agents that his son had been residing in Thailand for approximately 14 or 15 years. However, Eric returned to the United States during the pandemic and subsequently went back to Thailand in September 2020.
According to an FBI complaint, Eric confided in his father about making phone calls concerning the political emails, and he even mentioned contacting the White House switchboard.
During the interview, Richard informed the agents that Eric could have reached out to the Republican Party of North Carolina and the State Police of North Carolina regarding his concerns. The agents played seven recorded calls and messages for Richard, seeking to ascertain whether he recognized the voice of the caller.
According to the complaint, when Richard listened to the audio of a call made to Tillis’ office in Raleigh on September 29, 2021, he confirmed to the agents that the caller could be his son, Eric.
Upon Eric’s return to the United States from overseas, he was apprehended by FBI Charlotte and FBI Atlanta Special Agents at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Eric Welton is currently charged with one count of threatening a federal official, and there is a possibility of additional charges being filed against him. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The announcement regarding the arrest was made by Michael Easley, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is conducting an investigation into the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Warlick is responsible for prosecuting the case.