Meet the Exotic Dancer Who Went Undercover to Take Down Terrorists
Using her wits and guile, she helped capture some of the most dangerous men in America
Rebecca Williams always dreamed of fighting crime like her father, who was a cop and a Baptist minister. Living in a rough suburb of Phoenix with her divorced mother, she spent much of her childhood bingeing true-crime TV shows and confronting bullies.
“I put myself in situations that most people wouldn’t, just wanting to do the right thing,” she said. Then things changed.
At 15, Williams fell in love with an 18-year-old grocery store manager. She dropped out of high school, and they moved in together. At 19, she gave birth to a daughter. Amanda (not her real name) was deaf, autistic and unable to talk. The young parents scraped by with odd jobs until 13 months later, when they had a son and money got even tighter.
Williams began working as a cocktail waitress at various nightclubs. With a glamorous Farrah Fawcett hairstyle, she looked like “a sailor’s dream,” said a neighbor. At Tiffany’s Cabaret, she jumped on stage during amateur night and was quickly promoted to exotic dancer. She loved the thrill of transforming each night into Stevie (after Stevie Nicks, of course), a blond bombshell who whizzed around the pole to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
Men were obsessed. She spent her tip money on batteries for her daughter’s hearing aids and still longed to fight crime. In 1999, after 14 years together, the couple separated.
Fearful that the school system was failing Amanda, Williams enrolled her in a residential home for deaf children, seeing her only on weekends. By 2003, she was cleaning toilets to pay the bills and living with her teenage son in a double-wide trailer. Her brother, known to all as Krusher, lived in a smaller trailer in her backyard.
Krusher was a career criminal who, after selling drugs to an undercover officer, had agreed to go undercover with the Hells Angels. One day federal agents came to visit Krusher and noticed Williams.
“His handler asked me if I was interested in undercover work,” she recalled. “It sounded cool, sort of sexy, you know, the whole spying game.” She would not wait long for her first assignment.
A bombing in Scottsdale
On Feb. 26, 2004, in Scottsdale, Arizona, Don Logan finished his lunch and strolled back to the city’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue. As a Black man in a predominantly White city, Logan said his job as diversity director was “to create an environment where diversity is valued and encouraged.” It was 1 p.m. when a colleague at reception handed him a curious package the size of a shoebox.
Logan carried the box to the second floor and asked his secretary, Renita Linyard, for scissors. When he opened the box, he heard a loud pop. Time slowed as a floor-to-ceiling window shattered, debris fell from the ceiling, and the room filled with smoke and screams. Logan thought he’d been shot. Through blood-stained glasses, Linyard watched Logan stagger to the door, blood gushing down his arm.
After an ambulance raced Logan to the hospital, doctors fought to save his forearm using skin grafts and screws.
Soon the crime scene was crawling with investigators. Leading the inquiry was a pale 40-year-old man with curly hair tinged with gray: Tristan Moreland, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Moreland’s team rushed fragments of the pipe bomb to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service lab in Dulles, Virginia, where experts discovered it was made from hobby rocket motors and igniters that were impossible to trace. But there was one clue. Five months earlier, someone had left a warning on Logan’s answering machine. Incredibly, the caller left his name: “This is Dennis Mahon. The White Aryan Resistance is standing up.”
“Dennis and Daniel Mahon are twins from Illinois,” Moreland later told a court. “They began their white supremacist career as members and Grand Dragons of the KKK” before joining the White Aryan Resistance. “They’re into all kinds of causes: anti-abortion of white children, anti-tax, anti-government in general.” Dennis was an associate of Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a truck bomb outside a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
A serial bomber himself, Dennis, in a 1994 interview published online by an anonymous blogger, admitted: “In south Florida, ’83 or ’84, I did some pretty serious bombings. Pretty serious shootings. We also did some major activities against abortion clinics.” Dennis and Daniel, who both worked as aircraft mechanics, had access to the tools needed to make bombs.
But Dennis had an Achilles’ heel. During the Oklahoma City bombing investigation, the ATF planted a female confidential informant (CI) posing as a skinhead to get close to him. Dennis was smitten and boasted to her about his terror activities, yet it was not enough to arrest him. Moreland planned to send in another CI to see if Dennis would brag about the Scottsdale attack. He needed a woman who was not only alluring but also brave, because the mission would be fraught with danger.
Williams goes undercover
In January 2005, the ATF summoned Williams to its Phoenix office. She’s lived a little in life, she has a lot of street smarts and she’s run with some rough crowds, Moreland recalled thinking after they met. She had an edge and would be believable. When he told Williams there had been a bombing that seriously injured a Black person, she was intrigued.
“It was an honorable thing to do to save lives,” Williams said. She signed an agreement to become a CI in exchange for $100 a day and up to $100,000 if the Mahons were convicted. A neighbor agreed to watch Williams’s son, and soon she was on a flight to Oklahoma.
Onboard, Moreland gave her a cover story and a driver’s license in the name of Becca Stephens. She was a woman on the run from the law, a white nationalist. Williams would have to transform into a very different person. While Williams was a caring person who, growing up, was taught that everyone was a child of God, Becca Stephens hated anybody of color.
They drove from the airport to an abandoned Walmart, where a trailer attached to a blue Dodge truck sat. Inside the trailer, a light switch above the stove turned on pinhole cameras in the ceiling covering every part of the trailer except the bedroom and bathroom. The trailer transmitted live audio and video to a nearby hotel room where ATF agents lay in wait. An audio recorder was hidden in a keychain that swung from Williams’s belt.
Moreland introduced her to “Shelly,” a brunette ATF agent who would play her friend.
“I was like, ‘OK, this looks like it’s gonna be fun,’ ” Williams recalled. As she and Shelly drove toward an RV camp, Williams was buzzing. “There was an adrenaline rush going for sure,” she said.
Williams had no idea it was just the beginning of a grueling seven-year ordeal to bring the Mahons to justice. No one could know what she was doing, not even her family.
Meeting the Mahon brothers
It didn’t take long for the Mahon brothers to notice two attractive women parking their trailer, with a Confederate flag hanging in their window, next to theirs. Daniel offered to hook up their sewer and water connections while Dennis cracked jokes. The brothers were 54 years old and shared the same goofy smile. Dennis, 3 inches shorter, was the more dominant brother.
“He told me that he was the Grand Dragon of the KKK,” Williams recalled. To prove it, he showed her a photograph of him wearing a green ceremonial hood. In another image, he performed Hitler’s “Sieg heil” salute. Williams invited the brothers into her trailer and flicked the light switch, which triggered the recording device. Soon they were chatting over beers and booze. Daniel boasted about drive-by shootings and blowing up cars. “We were just trying to send a message,” he told Williams.
Williams, hoping to captivate the men the way Stevie did customers at the strip club, stayed quiet, even standoffish. Dennis was smitten. “I just want to cuddle with you. You’re so beautiful,” he told her.
“Your day may come,” she teased, steering him out the door. Hidden microphones later recorded Williams as she whispered, “Weirdo.”
After three days of hanging out with the brothers, Williams told Dennis that she was on the run and had a warrant out for her arrest. Breaking down in fake tears, she confessed that she had tried to bomb a child molester’s car in California. Moved, Dennis touched her arm.
“I want to hurt him real bad,” she told him. Soon, ATF devices recorded Dennis telling her how to send a mail bomb and blow up a car using a condom and liquid explosives.
Days later, at a gun show, after Williams asked if he’d worked on bombs, Dennis whispered: “Yes, the diversity officer … Scottsdale … had his fingers blown off.” Then he caught himself and said he had told “white cops how to do it.”
After 12 days, Williams left the campsite, telling the brothers that she needed to keep moving to evade the law. She promised to write and drove away, with Shelly pulling the ATF trailer full of secret video footage. She returned home to her children and her life.
But the job wasn’t done. The ATF wanted more evidence.
By May 2005, she and Dennis were frequent pen pals. She continued the flirtatious behavior, in December mailing Dennis a Christmas card with a suggestive photograph. “Thought you’d love the butt shot,” she wrote. Dennis, whose love language was hate, mailed Williams books called Creative Revenge and A Manual of Urban Guerrilla Warfare.
In May 2006, Dennis suggested that she meet Robert Joos. Joos ran an extremist training camp in rural Missouri, as well as a church, the Sacerdotal Order of the David Company, where he preached to “apocalyptic Christians.” Joos, a former Eagle Scout and Air Force Academy cadet, was on parole after serving a two-year sentence for driving without a license—a felony because it was his third such offense (he claims he answers to God and not the government). Earlier, a Joos henchman had tracked down a Missouri state trooper who had arrested Joos and shot him through his kitchen window. Joos was untouchable.
“He’s a brilliant guy. His IQ is well above mine,” Moreland said. No cops could get into his remote compound without risking an ambush. But for a $100,000 reward, Williams was willing to go into the belly of the beast.
It was January 2008 when Williams drove to a Sonic Burger in Joplin, Missouri, to meet Joos. He was easy to find. Wearing prayer beads, a long beard and a royal blue bandanna holding back his long gray hair, he looked like Charles Manson.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a lady around to open a door for,” Joos said when they reached her rental car. When Williams dropped into a curtsy, he blushed.
Joos called out directions as Williams weaved through country roads to Joos’s 200-acre church compound an hour away. Because of the remote location, ATF surveillance was impossible. She was going in alone. No backup. Moreland had told her to wear a pink ribbon in her hair to help aerial teams identify her.
They arrived at a large gate. After she drove in, he locked it behind them. “At that moment, I realized, I am truly in the grace of God,” she recalled.
They drove through a graveyard of broken-down cars. Inside rickety buildings, Williams noted several long guns, and as they strolled among the walnut trees, Joos taught her how to make napalm using household soap.
Joos led her deeper into the woods, showing her caves where he hid supplies. “He said if he ever found out that somebody was trying to infiltrate them, that they would disappear,” she said. She thought about her keychain secretly recording them and imagined her dead body decomposing in a cave. She wondered if the pink ribbon was to help agents identify her body.
Closing in while undercover
In May 2008, the Mahons announced they were headed to Arizona, and Moreland hatched a plan to get them talking about the Scottsdale bomb. “I provided her a traffic ticket court notice from the City of Scottsdale,” he later recalled. Williams asked the twins to drive with her to the courthouse—next to the bombing site.
When they passed the building where the bomb had exploded in Don Logan’s face, “they both automatically flinched and ducked down into a fetal position,” Williams recalled.
Daniel said, “That’s where Logan’s from,” before Dennis repeated his previous assertion to Williams, “I didn’t plant the bomb; I helped make it.”
Later, the ATF recorded a rattled Daniel telling his brother that Williams “had an agenda.” She was certain she was compromised.
The next day, Williams appeared at the brothers’ hotel pool wearing a Confederate flag bikini that seemed to lift the fog of suspicion. Dennis talked about how much he loved Williams, how he wanted to settle down with her. He talked about raising Williams’s son and teaching him to hunt.
By September 2008, Williams wanted to quit. Her three years as a confidential informant had taken a toll on her family life. It was exhausting lying to her mother and her teenage children. She hated being away from Amanda, and she couldn’t relax. At any moment she might have to snap into character, chatting about the “new world order.”
Even her relationship with Moreland had begun to fray. “There were a lot of heated arguments,” Moreland said. “I think she might have even punched me a couple times.”
As of January 2009, Williams had gathered hundreds of hours of video and audio evidence that linked Dennis Mahon to the Scottsdale bombing and proved that Robert Joos was stockpiling weapons. But Moreland wanted more. He would accompany Williams back to the compound, but this time going as his alter ego, Jimmy “the Wolf” Foster.
“Jimmy’s a hardcore extremist,” said Moreland, packing a $10,000 semi-automatic rifle that would give him instant credibility with Joos.
“I told him that I was with a small cell in Arizona,” Moreland later told a court. “My affiliations were with the White Aryan Resistance. I dealt guns. I messed around with explosives.”
The ruse worked.
“I was ultimately able to get Joos to teach me how to build a bomb that was going to be used in a fictitious bombing,” Moreland told me.
Joos had fallen for Jimmy the Wolf’s story, and Moreland was invited to join The Order, a murderous white supremacist group. “I got hired by The Order to kill Judge Richard Matsch, who was the judge in the Timothy McVeigh trial,” he said.
In April 2009, Williams drove Moreland to meet Dennis and Daniel at their home in Illinois. The brothers also fell for his Jimmy the Wolf routine.
“Don’t put a swastika on a synagogue; bomb it if you want to do something about it” was just one piece of advice Dennis gave Moreland. When they passed an outbuilding, Dennis said, “This is where I make my bombs.”
Moreland was satisfied. With all the evidence that he and Williams had compiled, there was no reason to put things off any longer. It was time to stop the Mahons.
Making the arrest
At 7 a.m. on June 25, 2009, armed ATF agents surrounded the Mahon house, where Daniel and Dennis were caring for their ailing mother. Agents smashed down the door, handcuffed the twins and ransacked the house. They found high explosives, improvised bombs, assault weapons, ammunition, bulletproof vests, a Nazi armband and a photo of Osama bin Laden inscribed “our hero.”
When Jimmy the Wolf read them their rights, Dennis said: “We knew. You and the girl. We knew.”
With the Mahons, Joos and other associated white supremacists arrested, Williams could finally return to ordinary life. She took a job at a motorcycle rental store in Flagstaff. On July Fourth, she rode on the store’s float in a parade. As a band fell into the national anthem, Williams thought of the terrorists she had put behind bars and swelled with pride. That night in Chicago, Dennis Mahon sat in a jail cell and confessed to his cellmate that he had planted the bomb that injured Don Logan “as payback” for the City of Scottdale’s firing of three White police officers.
The Mahons’ trial began in January 2012. While the district attorney showed proof that Daniel wanted to “pop” and “cap” Don Logan, his lawyer argued that Daniel was just a braggart who was not involved in the bombing. The court agreed, and Daniel was found not guilty of any crime.
Dennis was found guilty on three counts and sentenced to 40 years.
For the prohibited possession of firearms, Robert Joos received a sentence of 78 months in prison. He can never again legally own a weapon.
Tristan Moreland retired in 2014 and is now a drummer in a band. “It worked out in the end,” Moreland said about his work with Williams. “She was fearless.”
The ATF recommended that Williams enter the witness relocation program for her safety, but she refused to cut off contact with her children. Instead, she bought a trailer and vanished.
When I tracked her down in June 2022, Williams was living with Amanda at the off-the-grid property she bought with her ATF money. Solar-powered security cameras often capture them brushing their ponies or making ice cream from their goats’ milk. At night, behind reinforced doors, they often throw dance parties. “Amanda has a speaker, and she likes to hold it and feel the vibrations,” Williams explained.
Williams revealed that she’s volunteered to investigate a cold case, a mysterious double murder in a nearby ghost town. She thinks she can use her skills as an undercover informant to solve the case.
“The police have come to a dead end on this, and it’s because they haven’t done any fieldwork,” she said. “My dad still thinks I should become a detective.”