A member of the neo-Nazi group The Base instructed his peers to vandalize synagogues, then gave up those comrades’ names when questioned by the FBI, court documents allege.
Richard Tobin, 18, was arrested last week on allegations of conspiring to vandalize synagogues across the country. Tobin was allegedly a member of The Base, a white supremacist group that encourages violence and terror tactics. Although the The Base prizes secrecy, Tobin appears to have named two other members and accused them of crimes during an interview with an FBI agent. His arrest comes amid a series of law enforcement crackdowns against far-right extremists, suggesting increased scrutiny of the movement.
On consecutive days in late September, Beth Israel Sinai synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, and Temple Jacob in Hancock, Michigan, were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.
“Reading the affidavit, you can’t help but be disturbed by its contents,” David Holden, president of Temple Jacob, told The Daily Beast. Temple Jacob was targeted with swastikas and The Base’s logo. He said he hoped prosecutors could “bring this person and his co-conspirators to justice.”
Though separated by state lines, both attacks allegedly originated with Tobin, who lives in New Jersey. According to a criminal complaint, Tobin called the campaign “Operation Kristallnacht,” a reference to a two-day pogrom in Nazi Germany that destroyed Jewish homes and businesses and left more than 90 dead.
Calls to violence within the group are common in The Base, which organizes itself into loose cells across the U.S. and Canada. The group adopts explicitly neo-Nazi imagery and trains members in violence at “hate camps.” Although Tobin is not accused of personally vandalizing the synagogues, he admitted to instructing two fellow Base members to carry out the attacks.
And he gave up those members’ names in an Oct. 30 interview with the FBI, according to a criminal complaint.
“Tobin stated that a named member” of The Base “had ‘hit’ a synagogue in Wisconsin” and that another named member had done the same to a synagogue in Minnesota, the complaint said.
He also described himself as asking the two people to “tag the shit” out of the synagogues and that “if there’s a window that wants to be broken, don’t be shy,” prosecutors alleged.
The feds also seized Tobin’s electronic devices, where he was revealed to have conducted multiple Google searches for “Kristallnacht” in the days before the graffiti, according to the complaint. Those seized devices might be even more damaging for The Base.
Members of The Base use a secure chat room to communicate, Vice reported last year. The tactic is designed to prevent leaks, which have previously revealed compromising information on white supremacist groups like Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker Party. The Base’s social media network is reportedly built on the secure messaging server Riot, and members must pass a vetting process to be admitted. Some of the group’s messages have still managed to leak to Vice and to anti-fascist researchers.
Seizure of Tobin’s electronics means feds might also have access to the server now. A search of his internet history revealed him using an “encrypted messaging platform” to contact the two people he named as the synagogue vandals. “The symbol of [The Base] was listed in the name of the website,” the complaint says of the messaging platform.
The complaint describes The Base’s online presence as a place where “they have discussed, among other things, the recruitment of prospective members, and the creation of a white ethno-state, acts of violence against minorities (including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans) [The Base’s] military training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices.” The description is consistent with screenshots published by Vice last year, which showed the group as maintaining an online “library” with manuals on building weapons and explosives.
Tobin’s arrest also comes as law enforcement appears to step up activity against neo-Nazi groups like Atomwaffen Division, a violent group whose members have voiced support for The Base. The FBI has been investigating Atomwaffen since at least spring 2018, The Daily Beast previously reported. In August and September, two Atomwaffen members were busted for alleged violent plots. In recent weeks, an Atomwaffen cell leader had his guns seized under a “red flag” law, and was subsequently found with fellow Atomwaffen member Aidan Bruce-Umbaugh, with multiple rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition in Texas last week (Bruce-Umbaugh member was arrested).
Both groups preach an apocalyptic vision of race war. Tobin’s seized electronics revealed “an obsession with neo-Nazi propaganda, terrorism, and acts of mass violence,” including footage of a mosque shooting, searches for ISIS, and information on bomb-making, according to the criminal complaint.
He also told investigators that he’d considered becoming a suicide bomber, and thought about violence when he saw a Pride Parade, or African-Americans.
“Tobin stated that there was a time when he was at a mall in Edison, New Jersey, and there were so many African Americans around that it ‘enraged’ him,” the complaint reads. “That day, he had a machete in his car, and he wanted to ‘let loose’ with it.”