Valrico, Florida — When federal agents raided Martin Winters’ home in Valrico this week, they were also armed with a warrant they obtained with information from an undercover informant.
According to the indictment, agents were looking for as many as 50 high-powered AR-15 rifles and several explosive devices buried around Winters’ properties.
But after several hours, agents apparently found far less than what they were led to believe they would.
When Special Agent Dave Couvertier, the FBI’s spokesman, was asked what they had discovered, he declined comment.
“Well, that’s part of the original investigation,” Couvertier said. “But eventually at some point, those issues will be addressed publicly.”
In federal court Wednesday, Winters’ defense attorney. Ellis Faught, suggested the confidential informant’s estimates were overblown.
There were four so-called destructive devices purchased by the informant, said Faught, but not buried on the property as booby traps.
“None of this was there,” he told the court.
“And it’s my understanding that no guns were dug up,” Faught said after the hearing. “It was alleged by the government that there were 50 to 60 guns and I’m only aware of five of them that were found and they were found in his house in a safe.”
Winters’ daughters also said that their father was not a danger. “We knew he wouldn’t hurt anyone. We knew he wouldn’t put anyone else in jeopardy,” Winters’ daughters told us.
The three women, speaking exclusively with 10 News, say what is buried on their property is dozens of barrels of food.
Any weapons their father, a so-called “doomsday prepper” might have had they say, were only to defend what he had amassed for them.
“He is just preparing if days were to come where there was no grocery store and you had to have food and you couldn’t go get it,” said Winters’ youngest daughter, Tracie. “It’s not like he’s preparing to hurt anyone ever. That’s not his intentions,”
For now Winters will remain in jail. His next court appearance set for July 17.
It’s possible federal agents will present more evidence found during Monday’s search of Winters’ properties, which may further support claims made by their confidential informant.