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DEA’s tactics described

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Linda and James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, shown in court in 2000, were gone when DEA agents came to their home Friday.

Linda and James Warren “Flaming Eagle” Mooney, shown in court in 2000, were gone when DEA agents came to their home Friday.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

SPANISH FORK — Federal drug agents came calling at the home of James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, but he wasn't home, and the agents were turned away by his stepson, the young man said.

Mooney and his wife, Linda, were out of the state visiting family when at least five agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration came knocking at their Spanish Fork home on Friday.

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City, said she could not comment, and representatives for the DEA also declined comment.

James and Linda Mooney were arrested in 2000 for giving peyote to non-American Indians as part of a religious ceremony. In 2004, the Utah Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Mooneys could not be prosecuted for including non-American Indians in their ceremonies.

However, the thousands of peyote buttons, cash and other items seized by police were turned over to the federal government, which purportedly continues to investigate the Mooneys and the church they founded in 1997 — Oklevueha EarthWalks Native American Church of Utah.

Justin Schoenrock, Mooney's 26-year-old stepson, said the agents asked a lot of questions — mostly about the whereabouts of James and Linda Mooney.

"One of them asked, 'Do you know why we're here?' " Schoenrock said. "I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Good.' "

He said the agents did not present a search or arrest warrant or any other paperwork.

The agents asked to enter the house to verify that no one else was home, but Schoenrock refused. "They said, 'Would you mind?' and I said, 'Yes, I would mind,' " Schoenrock said. "They asked me twice."

Another DEA agent and one from the U.S. Department of the Treasury visited the office of C.J. Fenton, former bookkeeper and financial consultant for Oklevueha EarthWalks, she said.

Fenton said the agents asked Fenton if she would look over a spreadsheet they said they had compiled from data recovered from a computer hard drive seized at Mooney's home in 2000, but the agents never produced a spreadsheet.

Instead, they asked about her involvement with Oklevueha EarthWalks and about the church's donation policy, she said.

"It felt like they were trying to be able to prove that James was selling peyote," Fenton said. "They wanted to know who was there and if I'd ever attended a ceremony. I said, 'This was supposed to be about my finances, not about my personal life.' "

Fenton described the interview with the agents as a "witch hunt."

"I was offended by the implications behind their questions," she said. "It felt slimy to me, and when I asked them where the spreadsheet was, they said it was very cumbersome and not worth taking out."

Mooney says he had nothing to hide and that the DEA seemed to be on a fishing expedition.

"Since there was not a search warrant of our property or an arrest warrant, I'm assuming that this was an intimidation tactic," he said.