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The story behind one Haywood woman's arrest on federal charges including threat to kidnap

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Lilly Knoepp/Cory Vaillancourt
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The FBI arrested a Haywood County woman Sept. 7, 2022 on federal charges after sending phony writs offering bounties to local lawmakers.

A Haywood County woman was arrested earlier this month for threats to local elected officials.

Smoky Mountain News politics editor Cory Vaillancourt broke the story. Use the audio player above to listen to BPR’s Lilly Knoepp conversation with Vaillancourt.

In August, local elected officials and community members began reporting receiving “writs,” which demanded the recipients surrender to a tribunal. The fraudulent writs offered bounties of $10,000 to $20,000 to anyone who could deliver officials that refused to comply with the terms of the writs.

"Elected officials began talking to me and some of them felt very threatened by this and they immediately brought these writs of execution to the Haywood County Sheriff," said Vaillancourt.

Some of the documents included the words, “Wanted Dead or Alive” and pictures of those who were served, Vaillancourt explained.

Elected officials, city council members, the sheriff, chief deputy, school board and others were just some of the people who were targeted.

A listing of everyone who’s been “served” appears on a self-reporting database hosted by a group called “The People’s Bureau of Investigation.”

These “writs” stated they were issued by a court called “The U.S. Environmental District Court” which does not exist.

Vaillancourt began investigating the writs, some of which were signed by Darris Moody of Haywood County. So he called her up.

“She neve once denied that she was behind the writs. She declined to say how many but there were at least 30 served on Haywood County officials alone,” said Vaillancourt.

The Smoky Mountain News published the interview with Moody on September 7th and she was arrested by the FBI later that day.

On September 12th at Moody’s recent federal detention hearing, she was sent home with an electronic monitor. Her trial date has not yet been set. Last week, the town of Waynesville announced it is seriously considering putting metal detectors in place for public meetings in light of the recent threats.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.