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Marine vet among 4 from NJ charged in Capitol storming

Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Four more suspects from New Jersey, including a Marine vet, have been charged with participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 breach at the U.S. Capitol, federal court documents show.

The suspects, all men, are listed by federal authorities as residents of Essex and Burlington counties, and two were allegedly inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office that day.

Another allegedly texted an FBI agent shortly after the breach, saying a Facebook post was about to go live that would identify him as entering the Capitol on Jan. 6 and asked: “Any fallout u think I should be aware of?”

And one suspect was an active duty U.S. Marine until May of 2020.

All were recorded inside the Capitol by security cameras or via social media, and three were identified to the FBI by friends or family members, documents show. None are currently jailed for Capitol allegations; records show they were released on bail.

Lawyers for the four were unknown, or could not be reached for comment.

The cases, which authorities unveiled in the past few weeks, brings the number of Jan. 6 suspects from New Jersey, or with close ties to the Garden State, to over two dozen. Two have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, Scott Fairlamb and Rasha Abual-Ragheb.

Mick Chan, of Newark, was the suspect who was texting an FBI agent, on Jan. 8, 2021. He later called the agent too.

He had the agent’s number through a mutual friend, but the extent of the relationship was not fully explained in the federal charges against him.

The charges say he told FBI agents he traveled to Washington, D.C. with two female friends and later gave a detailed description of his activities on Jan. 6. Among them are that he carried a “stab and poke thing” for self defense because he thought supporters of former President Donald Trump would be attacked, and later said he entered the Capitol with “journalistic intent.”

The FBI found no evidence that he was a member of any media on Jan. 6, 2021.

Later, an FBI agent wrote, “Chan explained that he called the FBI because he believed the Trump rally was infiltrated and the breach of the Capitol was carried out by members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter (”BLM”).”

And, on social media, he asked someone in a comment if they had “contacts” he could talk to about the “mainstream media’s” lies. “I was inside for 30 minutes and have decent footage to dispel the bs,” he wrote, according to the charges against Chan.

Chan denied committing any violence, but says he suffered a shot to the temple from a paintball, maybe by police, and discussed joining a class action lawsuit for people who were tear gassed on Jan. 6, authorities allege.

Chan is charged with four crimes accusing him of disorderly conduct and illegally entering the Capitol. He was arrested in Newark on Sept. 21, 2021.

Lawrence Dropkin, Jr., also listed as being from Newark, was arrested on Oct. 1, also in Newark on four charges he illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. Dropkin was recorded on Capital security cameras for over 30 minutes, walking to several different parts of the building.

The FBI said agents were tipped to Dropkin’s presence by a lifelong friend, who shared screenshots of a Facetime call Dropkin made inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The FBI also talked to another person, a relative, who heard from Dropkin’s father that his son was in Pelosi’s office, and that Dropkin, the son, said he’d be spending some time in jail due to his Jan. 6 involvement, authorities allege.

Michael Gianos, 33, of Marlton, in Evesham Township, is charged with two crimes accusing him of illegally entering the Capitol. He was arrested on Dec. 1, along with a friend, Rachel Myers, 30, of Philadelphia.

Their case grew out of the investigation of Lawrence Stackhouse, of Blackwood, Camden County, who was arrested last March.

Now, federal authorities say Gianos, Myers and Stackhouse were all together in the Capitol on Jan. 6, and investigators publicized several photos they allege show the trio moving together in the building.

Gianos was a contact in Stackhouse’s cell phone, and the FBI alleges the trio did a lot of communicating via text and social media, before and after the storming, with each other and others.

Many of the text exchanges are included in the new charges against Gianos and Myers.

In later December 2020, Gianos said he was “getting worked up” while packing for the anticipated trip to Washington for Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally, the FBI says in court documents.

The FBI alleges Gianos was inside Pelosi’s office and watched someone steal the House leader’s laptop. Gianos later texted with multiple people following the breach, including messages like, “Yeah bro s— got wild man” and “took over the capital.”

The FBI identified Myers partly from a backpack she wore with the logo from Delilah’s, a strip club in Philadelphia where she worked.

Marcos Panayiotou was arrested Dec. 2, in Wrightstown, also on four charges that accuse him of illegally entering the Capitol, and the FBI says he too freely roamed the building on Jan. 6.

The FBI identified him as a Wrightstown resident, but a tipster said he moved to Philadelphia in October 2020. He is reportedly 29 years old.

The FBI was initially alerted to the person they say is Panayiotou by someone who alerted Washington, D.C. police on Jan. 9 after spotting a young man in Capitol footage wearing a black sweatshirt that said, “Reparable Management Company – 1st Maintenance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA.”

The next day, a friend reported to the FBI about seeing a video – allegedly shown by Panayiotou’s wife – of Panayiotou inside the Capitol. That person said Panayiotou was a U.S. Marine.

Investigators pulled his military records, and found drivers licenses for him from New Jersey and Florida, and learned he had indeed been a member of the 1st Maintenance Battalion at Camp Pendleton in California until February 2020. He was released from active duty in May 2020 and enrolled as a Marine reservist, the FBI says.

A close family member later identified Panayiotou from a photo of him inside the Capitol, which had run in a San Diego newspaper, and another close relative described Panayiotou as “very patriotic but ‘does stupid things sometimes,’” the FBI alleges.

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