Crime And Criminals Blog - Crimes, criminals, scams and frauds.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Freight Train Riders of America

The Freight Train Riders of America (FTRA) is an American gang of homeless men who move about in railroad cars, particularly in the northwestern United States.

The FTRA was founded by homeless veterans of the Vietnam War in a Montana bar in the 1980s. The initials were originally said to stand for "Fuck The Reagan Administration". The name "Freight Train Riders of America" was adopted later.

Retired Spokane police officer Bob Grandinetti has specialized in investigating the FTRA, both as a Spokane police officer and since his retirement. He has linked members of the group to food stamp fraud, illegal drug trafficking, and hundreds of thefts, as well as brutal assaults and murders committed against other transients, hobos, and freighthoppers.

Members of the FTRA claim to be a loosely knit club of homeless people organized for mutual support, and dispute these allegations. Some homeless people not associated with the FTRA also dispute Grandinetti's allegations regarding the group and claim good experiences interacting with FTRA members; others report bad experiences with them. Complicating the matter is that many railroad officials consider the very existence of the FTRA to be an urban legend, others will say that they believe the group exists but have never seen any actual evidence of their activities, and others will say they have seen evidence the group exists but not that they are the violent, criminal group they are claimed to be.

Believed to number as many as 1,000, FTRA members are most frequently encountered along the BNSF Railway's Hi-Line, which stretches from Minneapolis to Seattle, often sleeping in switching yards, bridge underpasses and boxcars along the route.

Some graffiti attributed to FTRA members has included Nazi swastikas; this has led to speculation that the FTRA has a white supremacist orientation and comparisons to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. Since no other evidence exists other than the graffiti for the FTRA being a white supremacist group, these allegations are generally discounted. Most other homeless people who have interacted with FTRA members compare them to the Hells Angels motorcycle club, not to the Aryan Brotherhood.

A series of murders of transients along the rails committed by a serial murderer, Robert Joseph Silveria Jr. (aka "Sidetrack"), led to police and media attention on the FTRA, including a May 1996 murder which led to the FTRA's being profiled on America's Most Wanted. Silveria claims to have not been a member of the FTRA, but former police officer Bill Palmini, in his book Murder on the Rails about the Silveria murders, says he was a member. Robert Silveria is currently serving a double life sentence in Oregon for the murders.

American Nomads: Travels With Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders


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