Ohio Guardsman Sentenced for Making Ghost Guns and Threatening to Commit a Mass Shooting

minuteman statue in front of the headquarters building at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio
The minuteman statue in front of the headquarters building following a snow storm on the first day of spring, Mar. 21, 2018, at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. (Joe Harwood/U.S. Air National Guard)

An Ohio National Guardsman who was charged with making untraceable guns and threats toward military installations and Jewish schools has been sentenced to almost 6 years in federal prison.

Thomas Develin, a corporal, who is assigned to the Ohio Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 174th Air Defense Regiment, was arrested in June 2022 on three charges stemming from his efforts to make so-called "ghost guns" -- untraceable firearms that he built using 3D printers.

On Tuesday, a judge sentenced him to 71 months in jail, as well as six years of supervised release, court records show. Develin, who was 25 years old at the time, pleaded guilty to the charges as part of a deal with prosecutors in October.

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Although his federal charges dealt with Develin's efforts to manufacture illegal guns and parts, according to an affidavit filed by investigators around the time of his arrest, he also regularly talked about committing mass violence on military installations bases like Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Months before his arrest on gun charges, Develin was also arrested in March by local authorities when he made threats against the Columbus Torah Academy, a private K-12 Jewish school. He was released on bond and placed on house arrest.

WBNS, a local television station in Columbus, Ohio, reported that Develin was sentenced to six years in state prison for other crimes, including the threats he made, and that the U.S. Attorney's Office told them that he will serve that sentence at the same time as his federal term.

In a letter written to the court, Develin expressed regret for many of his actions and said that his inability to deal with coming home from a deployment to Afghanistan turned him into a bitter man who turned to alcohol to deal with his depression.

"After I came home from Afghanistan, I began to feel a sense of worthlessness," Develin wrote, adding that he "had gone from helping protect the lives of thousands of service members to sitting at home with nothing to do."

In this depression, he said that he "along with several like-minded soldier friends … discovered a military counterculture on social media" that "included memes and beliefs regarding doomsday preparation, government collapse, authoritarian rule and civil war."

"Specifically, memes were presented which supported the illegal manufacture and distribution of machine guns and National Firearm Act (NFA) items, and collecting military style gear for doomsday preparation," and Develin felt he "could relate with some of the ideas expressed on these pages."

According to Develin, his threats of mass violence and antisemitic threats were "dark ideas and jokes with military friends in an online social media platform that we thought was private."

Court records show that Develin made many of the threats cited by prosecutors in Discord chatroom messages dating to October 2021 to an audience of mostly members of the Ohio National Guard.

"Unfortunately, our conversations spiraled out of control into an undeclared contest to see who could come up with the darkest or ugliest ideas," Develin said in his letter, filed last Wednesday.

Develin is not the only Ohio National Guardsman to face charges stemming from extremist rhetoric in these chatrooms. James Ricky Meade was arrested alongside Develin last spring for threatening to crash a stolen plane into the Anheuser-Busch beer plant in Columbus.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that he was given three years' probation by a Franklin County judge at the end of January 2023 -- though he faced up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"At no time did I ever intend on performing these disgusting ideas or sharing these thoughts with anyone other than the members of our private group," Develin claimed.

Develin also cited witnessing the October 2021 suicide of a fellow soldier, a person he described as "a close friend of mine for two years" at "a house party during a National Guard weekend" while surrounded by five other soldiers. According to Develin, the incident caused him to lose the chance to deploy again and his mental health to worsen.

However, in the prosecutor's sentencing recommendations, the lawyers for the government argued that "before that incident Mr. Develin was already manufacturing illegal firearms and envisioning joining forces with an active shooter at a synagogue."

In a statement released at the time of his plea agreement, the Department of Justice noted that on the day Develin was arrested, "agents discovered in his vehicle: night vision goggles, ballistic plates, a ballistic helmet, first aid equipment and a large quantity of ammunition including several loaded magazines."

The statement goes on to note that agents also discovered "more than 25 firearms in Develin's residence and vehicle," as well as two manuals for improvised explosive devices.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Guardsman Who Hinted at Mass Shooting Plot Charged with Plan to Sell 'Ghost Guns' and Conversion Kits

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