US arrests five neo-Nazis over threats to journalists, activists

Members and supporters of a US neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement, at a 2018 rally in Georgia (AFP Photo/SPENCER PLATT)

Washington (AFP) - The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday the arrests of five men associated with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division over threats made to journalists and activists and a series of so-called "swatting" attacks.

Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia said they arrested Atomwaffen founder and former leader John Cameron Denton early Wednesday for "swatting" attacks on a US cabinet official, a Virginia university and a local African-American church.

He also plotted swatting attacks on the ProPublica investigative journalism group and one of their reporters in New York.

Swatting attacks involve making a false emergency call to police to spark the deployment of a tactical "SWAT" team to an address of an unwitting third party, often in the middle of the night.

Such attacks can result in police smashing into homes of the prank victims, and have, in a few cases, led to shootings and deaths.

Denton, who the Justice Department said admitted his role in the attacks to an undercover investigator, was charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, and interstate threats to injure.

The charge can bring up to five years in prison.

Separately, the department's Seattle, Washington office announced the arrest of four others associated with Atomwaffen on charges of conspiracy to make threats against journalists and activists, particularly against Jews and ethnic minorities.

The four were Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington; Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida, and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona.

The charges say they conspired together over an encrypted online chat service to identify their targets and fabricate menacing posters that they sent to the targets.

"These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities," said US Attorney Brian Moran.