Court records shed new light on Gulf Coast Walmart arsons

Alleged mastermind accused of fleeing wire fraud conviction in Nebraska; two sisters added as defendants
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 4:01 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The alleged mastermind of a string of fires at Walmart stores along the Gulf Coast fled Nebraska just before he was to be sentenced on a wire fraud conviction, according to court records.

An FBI agent laid out the timeline in a criminal complaint against a pair of sisters connected to the defendants. An updated indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Mobile last month named Erica Sikes and Jenna Bottorff as co-conspirators.

According to the agent’s affidavit, Erica Sikes and her husband, Jeffery Sikes, left Nebraska in late 2017 along with Bottoroff and her husband, Sean Bottoroff. A woman named Mikayla Scheele also was with them, according to the criminal complaint. Scheele pleaded guilty separately to her role in the Walmart conspiracy.

All of the defendants took on aliases to disguise their identities and rented a small home in Lillian in 2018, according to the affidavit. They lived there with the other co-defendants, the Bottorffs’ son, Michael Bottorff, and Alexander Olson.

According to the criminal complaint, the co-defendants lived as a “family” and frequently held meetings to discuss “business proposals” about how to solve the world’s problems. The frequency and length of those meetings increased in the runup to the fires in May and June last year. Two Walmarts in Mobile and two in Mississippi sustained more than $11 million in damage in May and June last year.

It was during those meetings that Sean Bottorff, at Jeffery Sikes’ direction, wrote a manifesto entitled “Declaration of War and Demands for the People.” according to the affidavit. That document contained a list of demands related to higher pay and better benefits and working conditions for Walmart employees.

All of the defendants this week pleaded not guilty to the updated indictment, the third version handed up a grand jury in the case. A federal magistrate judge in Mobile ordered Erica Sikes jailed pending trial. Prosecutors had argued that she was posed a danger to the public and was a risk to flee if released. Prosecutors also have asked for Jenna Bottoroff to be detained.

Quinton Olson, originally charged in the indictment, pleaded guilty earlier this month to a conspiracy charge and awaits sentencing. Federal prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the rest of the charges against him.

The wire fraud case in Nebraska stemmed from allegations the Jeffery Sikes contacted real estate developers and falsely represented that he had tenants willing to rent various retail commercial properties in Kearney and Grand Island in Nebraska.


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