RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A United States citizen living abroad was arrested for making death threats against former U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R),Thom Tillis (R) and U.S. Marines, according to United States Attorney Michael Easley for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Eric Charles Welton, 51, is an American citizen living abroad in Thailand who made multiple harassing and intimidating calls to the offices of Republican elected officials and associated organizations in the U.S. Welton claimed he received a large number of unsolicited political emails.
According to court documents in Sept. 2021, Welton allegedly spoke with a staff member at Tillis and Burr’s offices in Raleigh and threatened to show up and “put a bullet through each of [their] heads.”
The complaint also states Welton threatened to cut off the hands of the individual that decided to send him the emails.
“Our elected representatives and the public servants who staff their offices must be free to do the people’s work without threats of violence,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “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.”
In October and November 2022, Welton began making threats against U.S. Marines and others working at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In one voicemail, the USDOJ said Welton stated that he was “going to kill a bunch of Marines” due to anger over an immigration issue.
“It is unacceptable to make violent threats against anyone. And when threats are directed at elected officials or members of the armed forces it can impact their abilities to serve our country effectively,” said Robert M. DeWitt, the Special Agent in Charge of FBI Charlotte.
FBI agents interviewed Welton’s father Richard in Nov. 2021. Richard told agents that his son had been living in Thailand for about 14 or 15 years, and came back to the U.S. during the pandemic and went back to Thailand in Sept. 2020.
Welton told his father that he had made calls regarding the political emails and even called the White House switchboard, according to an FBI complaint.
Richard told agents that Welton could have called the Republican Party of North Carolina and the State Police of North Carolina. During the interview, agents played seven recorded calls and messages for Richard and asked him if he recognized the caller’s voice.
In response to hearing the audio from a Sept. 29, 2021 call to Tillis’ office in Raleigh, Richard confirmed to agents “that could be Eric,” according to the complaint.
Welton was arrested at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as he returned to the United States from overseas by FBI Charlotte and FBI Atlanta Special Agents.
Welton is charged with one count of threatening a federal official and additional charges may follow. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Warlick is prosecuting the case.