The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly held a Catholic family at gunpoint and locked them in a van after a 15-year-old Catholic boy posted “offensive memes” online earlier this year.
According to American Greatness, the 15-year-old boy’s father, Jeremiah Rufini, claimed the family was “dragged out of their home at gunpoint, handcuffed and locked in a van” earlier this year after FBI agents “goaded” the boy to post “offensive memes” online. Rufini claimed that his son, who is an altar boy and a volunteer firefighter, was later hospitalized on the pretense of mental health.
American Greatness reported that while the FBI’s investigation into the 15-year-old Catholic boy only resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for breaching of peace, the family was left with devastating legal expenses.
In a GiveSendGo crowdfunding post that has since been unpublished, Rufini claimed that the FBI targeted his son as part of an undercover operation that targets Catholic teenagers with “extreme political content.”
Rufini explained that the issue began earlier this year when the boy had to start caring for his 93-year-old grandmother during the day while he was home-schooled.
“It was a very stressful time, compounded by several unrelated deaths in the family that happened in the same time period,” Rufini wrote. “None of our children, including my son, had been raised with cell phones or unrestricted internet access. It became necessary for him to have a phone so we could communicate while he was alone at my father’s house caring for my grandmother, and so we reluctantly allowed him to have a cell phone.”
According to Rufini, the cell phone eventually became a “welcome distraction” for his son, who had lots of free time while helping take care of his elderly grandmother. Due to the 15-year-old’s interest in theology and history, Rufini said he soon was led down a “rabbit hole” where he ended up engaging in group chats that were targeting Catholic individuals with “extreme political content.”
“We later learned that these chats were being closely monitored, and possibly operated by, FBI agents as part of an effort to investigate traditional Catholics that was downstream of a broader domestic investigation spurred by the events of January 6th,” Rufini stated.
Rufini explained that the family had “no idea” that the 15-year-old boy was engaging in the online chat groups. While the family remained unaware of his actions, Rufini said his son was eventually “goaded” into actions such as taking pictures of himself wearing ski masks and printing out memes to be left in public.
According to Rufini, the people in the online chat groups asked his son if he had access to weapons and prompted him to post photos of guns online. Eventually, Rufini said his son had an “attack of conscience” and quickly deleted all of the chat group apps on his phone, which led to the FBI’s investigation.
While the boy’s father expressed his displeasure with his son’s actions and acknowledged that the boy demonstrated “a severe lack of judgement,” he argued that the actions of the FBI “seemed very disproportionate.”
American Greatness shared a statement from CatholicVote Vice President Joshua Mercer, who indicated that it is not yet clear what the FBI accused the 15-year-old of doing. Mercer said that unless the boy was “engaging in real terroristic activities,” the FBI would not seem to have a “justification” for sending agents to “SWAT-team” the Catholic family’s house.
In his fundraising post on GiveSendGo, Rufini explained that the legal process cost his family more than $20,000. The fundraiser initially had a goal of $22,000 but was able to raise over $31,000 before it was unpublished by the family.