Federal investigators infiltrate extremist groups
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday February 25, 2003
Post-Gazette, Feb. 23, 2003
By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Federal investigators have penetrated branches of the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and the racist Christian Identity movement in a widening probe that has netted two suspects from opposite ends of Pennsylvania.
Using an undercover informant who posed as an expert in firearms, demolition and paramilitary training, FBI agents working from the Philadelphia office have gathered extensive intelligence on the racist far-right network and interconnections among its various groups.
At one point, the undercover informant gave cell phones to some members, enabling investigators to track members and monitor their conversations.
Both federal investigators and members of the extremist fringe gave matching accounts of the informant’s role in arrests in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas during a 24-hour period this month.
In Washington County, federal agents swarmed over the rural home of David Wayne Hull, 40, the imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Hull, who has longtime associations with members of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations as well as Christian Identity groups, was charged with manufacturing a pipe bomb and trading it to the undercover witness in return for a cell phone. Hull is being held without bond pending trial.
In Philadelphia, Joshua Caleb Sutter, 22, was arrested as he met with undercover agents in a parking lot, where he was purchasing a pistol with the serial number ground off. He also was charged with possession of an illegal silencer.Sutter is a member of the Aryan Nations spinoff group, Church of the Sons of Yaweh, and previously was Aryan Nations minister for Islamic liaison. In that role, he said he attempted to form alliances with anti-American Muslim extremists after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Federal authorities became alarmed after Hull attempted to purchase 10 hand grenades from their informant, telling him he needed them for an attack on abortion clinics.
Sutter, who knew Hull and had met him during the Aryan Nations World Congress in Potter County last summer, had attracted attention from investigators because of increasingly militant language in his Internet postings and public statements.
Sutter has advertised himself as a “phineas priest,” a title sometimes assumed in Identity circles by members who carry out violent attacks.
The informant traded a free cell phone to Hull in return for a pipe bomb, according to court records in the case. In another instance, the source provided a cell phone that was used by Pennsylvania Aryan Nations leader Charles John Juba, a Hull associate. Juba’s cell phone unexpectedly shut off this week as suspicion about the informant rose among extremist groups.
Ray Redfeairn, an official with the Idaho-based branch of Aryan Nations and leader of the Sons of Yaweh, said he had been informed that Sutter was caught in an apparent federal sting operation.
“Some people tried to talk him into buying some sort of weapon. As soon as the trunk was opened, the team came down on him,” Redfeairn said.
Sutter’s father, David, a retired minister, said his son’s arrest followed a trip to Canada with associates. On Feb. 12, he said, his son left the house with a friend and his next contact was a tearful, two-minute phone call from a Philadelphia-area jail.
“I think he was led astray,” the elder Sutter said. “All I know is these people courted him, took him places and he got arrested.”
Both former Aryan Nations minister of information August Kreis and Redfeairn say the informant had attempted repeatedly to gain access to top leaders in various branches of the Aryan Nations and the Church of the Sons of Yaweh.
Kreis said the informant offered to provide hand grenades. Kreis said he rejected the offer and warned the new member that his approach was raising suspicions.
“His thing always was that he could get hand grenades,” Kreis said. “I said, ‘You’re new and right off the bat people aren’t going to trust you.’ “
Both Kreis and Juba, the Aryan Nations’ national director, said Hull had previously told them he feared he was being set up by an informant. Court documents also show that, one month before he provided a pipe bomb to the informant, Hull telephoned the man asking him if he was connected with law enforcement.
Redfeairn last week said he believes he is a target of the investigation and said the informant had made repeated efforts to get close to him.
Federal investigators have previously explored Redfeairn’s connections to a convicted New Jersey drug dealer, James Mazzone.
Mazzone, who joined the Aryan Nations under the name James McManus, has been under investigation in New Jersey after state and federal investigators received information about him from a former girlfriend.
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