TODAY’S FOCUS: Violent Neo-Nazi Group Apparently Smashed
SEATTLE (AP) _ A violent neo-Nazi group that has been linked to the slaying of a Denver radio talk show host and two armored truck holdups worth more than $4 million is now mostly in jail, federal officials say.
An investigation of the group that called itself The Order began late last year and has produced the arrests of 24 group members and close associates in 13 states, officials say.
The group’s founder died in a Dec. 8 shootout with the FBI; his reputed successor is in custody.
No more than half a dozen followers are still at large, officials add. A racketeering indictment naming many or all of those named so far could come next week, the government lawyer in charge of the investigation said.
Members of The Order have been linked by the FBI to the June 18 slaying of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg, a Jew and frequently caustic critic of right-wing groups, and to ″virtual carbon-copy″ armored truck holdups that netted $3.6 million in Ukiah, Calif., on July 19 and $500,000 in Seattle on April 23, all during 1984.
FBI agents claim there were detailed but unfulfilled plans for an armored truck heist Dec. 4 in Boise, Idaho, and a $30 million safecracking late last year at the Brink’s Armored Co. office in San Francisco.
The investigation also extends to a $25,000 bank holdup Dec. 20, 1983, in Seattle; a $44,000 armored truck holdup March 16, 1984 in Seattle, and the April 29, 1984 firebombing of a Boise, Idaho synagogue.
George Fisher, a senior FBI agent in Seattle, said the agency had inadequate evidence to support charges in the Seattle holdups and the Boise firebombing.
Fisher, who has worked for more than 20 years in FBI bureaus around the country, compared The Order, in terms of its threat to national security and public safety, to such left-wing groups of the 1960s and 1970s as the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
In recent congressional testimony, FBI Director William Webster cited The Order as an example of a growing danger of terrorism on the right.
Fisher and assistant U.S. attorney David E. ″Gene″ Wilson said an average of at least 10 FBI agents in Washington and Idaho and five government lawyers around the country have been working fulltime on the case.
The charges filed against the 24 include armed robbery, counterfeiting, firearms violations, receiving stolen property, harboring fugitives, illegal use of false identification and other offenses.
The group’s founder, Robert J. Mathews, 31, of Metaline Falls, Wash., died Dec. 8 when flames ignited by FBI illumination flares destroyed his rented waterfront cottage after a 35-hour standoff on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle.
His alleged successor, Bruce Carroll Pierce, 30, formerly of Troy, Mont., and Metaline Falls, was arrested by FBI agents March 26 in Rossville, Ga.
FBI agents swooped down on another key target, David Eden Lane, 46, of Denver, four days later at a shopping center parking lot in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Two lesser figures, Ardie McBrearty, 57, and George Zaengle, 36, were arrested last week in Gentry, Ark., and Bloomsburg, Pa., respectively, on charges of receiving money from the Ukiah heist.
Lane and Pierce had been sought in the Berg killing and other crimes. Since Lane’s arrest, Denver police have refused to say anything about the Berg investigation except that it was continuing.
Among the half-dozen still being sought only one - Richard Joseph Scutari - could possibly be a member of the group’s hierarchy, Fisher said. Scutari is being sought in the Berg killing and the Ukiah holdup.
Scutari’s brother, Frank Scutari, 40, was arrested in February at his home in Port Salerno, Fla., on accessory-after-the-fact charges in the Ukiah heist.
FBI agents said The Order was following the plot of the novel ″Turner’s Diaries″ by William L. Pierce, head of National Alliance and former magazine editor for the old American Nazi Party. The book depicts a violent overthrow of the government by a small band of ″Aryan warriors″ who finance themselves through counterfeiting and bank robbery.
Sophisticated weapons, ammunition, explosives, cash, disguises, false identification papers and signed copies of a ″Declaration of War″ against the ″Zionist Occupation Government of North America″ have been seized in several of the arrests.
The document calls for execution of law enforcement officers, reporters, U.S. and Canadian government officials, Jews, blacks, other minorities and ″traitors.″
The Order, also known as White American Bastion and Bruder Schweigen, German for silent brotherhood, has been described by FBI agents as an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations) in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Many of those arrested also have close ties to Ku Klux Klan groups.
The Rev. Richard G. Butler, head of Aryan Nations, acknowledges that many of those charged are past or present church members who broke away in favor of more militant activity. He says the church generally shares their goals but opposes the use of violence to achieve them.
Butler said, however, he does not object to being described as a neo-Nazi.