(Reuters) - Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday with conspiracy, assault on a federal officer and obstruction of justice in connection with a 2014 standoff on federal land near his Nevada ranch, prosecutors said.
Bundy, along with four others, was indicted on 16 felony charges related to the armed standoff in Bunkerville in April 2014, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nevada said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Bundy had trespassed on federal public lands for more than 20 years, refusing to secure the necessary permits or pay the required fees the government charges ranchers to let their cattle roam.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent armed rangers to his ranch to round up his cattle. In response, anti-government groups and other supporters rallied to Bundy's defense.
Following an armed standoff, the federal agents ultimately backed down, citing safety concerns and returned the cattle they had seized.
"Persons who use force and violence against federal law enforcement officers who are enforcing court orders, and nearly causing catastrophic loss of life or injury to others, will be brought to justice," U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in the statement.
An attorney for Bundy could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday night.
Bundy was arrested earlier this month in Portland, Oregon where his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy were being held after their arrests for leading a separate armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in the community of Burns.
Both Ammon and Ryan were also charged for participating in the Nevada standoff, along with Ryan Payne and Peter Santilli, according to the statement.
All were charged with conspiracy, carrying a firearm in relation to a violent crime, obstruction of justice, extortion, and assault and threats against federal law enforcement.
The charge of assault on a federal law enforcement officer carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the defendants would also have to forfeit at least $3 million worth of property secured through the crimes, the statement said.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Julia Edwards in Washington D.C.; Editing by Richard Borsuk)