A New York City man was arrested Monday morning for allegedly threatening to kidnap and kill former President Donald Trump if he refused to leave the White House after losing the 2020 election.
The 71-year-old defendant, Thomas Welnicki of Rockaway Beach, Queens, allegedly made the threats to Trump as well as a dozen unidentified members of Congress in several calls over the past year to Secret Service offices and other law enforcement, a criminal complaint says.
Welnicki also allegedly told the Secret Service that there was a $350,000 reward to kill Trump and the lawmakers and said he might travel to Georgia on the same day the then-president was due to be there, Jan. 4, 2021.
Trump was not identified by name in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. But a footnote in that document identifies Welnicki’s target as the person who served as president from January 2017 through January 2021.
“During a voluntary interview on or about July 21, 2020, Welnicki told United States Capitol Police that ‘if [Individual-1] loses the 2020 election and refused to step down,’ Welnicki would ‘acquire weapons’ and ‘take him down,'” that complaint says.
“Welnicki bragged about how easy it was for him to acquire a firearm and added, ‘I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I will stand up to fascism,'” the complaint says.
“At the end of the interview, Welnicki stated, ‘I really hope that God takes [Individual-1] out,'” it adds.
Welnicki repeatedly referred to Trump as “Hitler” in a call to the Secret Service in November, the complaint alleges.
“They are very concrete and scary threats,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Zapana said at Welnicki’s appearance in Brooklyn federal court Monday, during which the defendant appeared via video.
Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon ordered Welnicki released on a $50,000 bond, with his brother acting as a surety. The prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer agreed on most conditions of that bond.
Scanlon also ordered Welnicki to be evaluated for alcohol treatment and mental illness and to be tracked via a GPS device.
Welnicki’s lawyer, Dierdre Von Dornum, objected to that tracking condition during the hearing, telling the judge it would interfere with the conditions for evaluation placed on him. The judge disagreed.
Von Dornum noted that the first reported call to the Secret Service and other agencies by her client was made more than a year ago and that he had met three times since then with law enforcement.
“If there were any actual danger I think they would have arrested him sooner,” the defense lawyer said.
Von Dornum did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Welnicki shares the same name as a man of the same age and of New York origins who in 1992 was identified in a Tampa Bay Times article as having been questioned by police in the 1982 disappearance of Jennifer Marteliz, a 7-year-old Tampa, Florida, girl.
Public arrest records of the Thomas Welnicki arrested in the Trump threat case Monday mirror reports about a man with the same name in Tampa in the 1990s. Each has a record of drug-related arrests, including one that led to an eight-year prison term for heroin-related charges.
At the time of Jennifer’s disappearance, a man with the same name as Welnicki had been staying with his girlfriend, a nurse who lived in a duplex next to Marteliz’s father, according to press reports from the 1990s.
In a statement to Tampa police, the Thomas Welnicki in that city claimed to be psychic and said he had “vibes” that Jennifer was abducted by two men, one a young blond man, the other an older man, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The newspaper said that in that statement, the Welnicki who was living in Tampa at the time said the blond man was known and trusted by Jennifer and that the blond man “lured her into the home by telling her that her grandmother was waiting.”
“The older man strangled the girl when she struggled, Welnicki said,” according to the newspaper.
“According to the statement, the young, blond man was haunted by something Jennifer said to him before she died: ‘You’re a nice man, I like you,'” the newspaper reported.
Welnicki said in the statement that the blond man “can’t bear to hear it … he can’t even close his eyes anymore, he can’t get drunk to the point anymore where … he doesn’t hear it when he wakes up,” according to the newspaper.
The Tampa Tribune in 1999 published details of an interview Welnicki gave police, in which he told them, “I’m beginning to feel like you think I’m about to, about to give a confession or something like that.” He said: “If you are … You’re totally wrong. Because I had nothing to do with it.”
The Welnicki in Tampa was never charged in connection with Jennifer’s disappearance, which remains an open case.
Jennifer’s father was shocked when a CNBC reporter informed him Monday of the arrest of a man named Thomas Welnicki in New York in the Trump threat case. The father immediately told his partner that a man with that name had been part of the investigation by police of his missing daughter.
The father, who asked that his name not be used, said police last contacted him several years ago but had no new information about the case.
He said he’s still hurting from the loss of his daughter.
“I just had to go on and live my life, trying to find peace,” he said.