ORLANDO, Fla. — American Front members may have thought they were inconspicuously preparing for an inevitable race war, but the group has long been tracked by authorities.
A two-year criminal investigation into the white-supremacist group has led to the arrests of 10 members since Friday — including American Front leaders Marcus and Patricia Faella, known and respected by members across the country.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the American Front is one the largest racist-skinhead groups in Florida, with a long history of violence that includes hate crimes and murder.
And it has helped the Orlando area emerge as the skinhead capital of Florida.
“We have been concerned about the American Front presence in Central Florida for a very long time,” said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the ADL.
Though the American Front isn’t large — the ADL is tracking about 17 active members and associates in Central Florida — it is one of the oldest continuously active racist-skinhead groups in the country.
“These are hard-core skinheads,” Pitcavage said.
Seven suspected American Front members, including the Faellas, were arrested during the weekend. Three more — Richard “Adam” Stockdale, Dustin Perry and Christopher J. Brooks — were arrested Monday and appeared before a judge Tuesday.
Perry and Brooks were ordered held on more than $500,000 each. Bond for Stockdale was set at more than $1 million because of a probation violation.
Stockdale, who calls himself “Swamp Nazi,” was convicted in 2009 for beating and choking a young Hispanic male unconscious while chanting, “White power!” according to court records. There was no reason for the beating other than Stockdale and a friend convicted of the crime didn’t like Hispanics.
His first felony arrest at 15 was for attending classes in 2003 at St. Cloud High School with a sheath knife hidden inside one of his boots. Record show he told police he forgot it was there. Years later, St. Cloud police said Stockdale and others were on school property trying to recruit students into their neo-Nazi beliefs, according to police Chief Pete Gauntlett.
Known for driving an old pickup with a public-address system and Confederate battle flags flying from the back, Stockdale was stopped multiple times for broadcasting his political views to motorists and pedestrians while driving in St. Cloud, police said.
Richard Stockdale Sr. told The Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday that said his son turned himself in to authorities Monday night to face what the father thinks are “fabricated and trumped-up” charges.
“I know my son is a good kid, and his friends are nothing but prideful Americans,” the elder Stockdale said. “I can’t wait to hear what (authorities) have. It’s all been blown way out of proportion. It’s amazing that when you say hooray for the white man, you go to jail.”
Brooks was arrested in Norfolk, Va., on charges of defacing a synagogue in April 2009. Brooks’ mother, Patty Kenny, said she always knew her son’s “beliefs” would get him in trouble one day, but never in this way. She always imagined he would be a target of violence because of his viewpoint.
Kenny said her son started coming home with the Nazi tattoos after he was sent to an alternative high school where he said experienced discrimination. She said that, although he adopted the neo-Nazi mentality, Brooks remained “a respectful and nice kid” who was never rebellious with her at home.
She said she does not defend or share her son’s way of thinking and tried to discourage it, but Kenny said she can’t imagine her son concocting domestic-terror plots.
“Maybe I’m wrong for not getting more involved, but he was an adult. I kind of thought or was hoping that something would happen that would change his ways like a spiritual awakening or something,” Kenny said, describing herself as a God-fearing woman. “He just didn’t think blacks and whites should mix. There are other clubs that do things, but his core group was not into that.”
Leadership of the American Front has been in a state of flux since its longtime leader, David Lynch, was shot to death at his California home in March 2011.
Since then, the Faellas have risen in the organization, as their longtime presence in the movement has helped make the couple influential, Pitcavage said. Marcus Faella was formerly a member of the Confederate Hammerskins, another violent skinhead group that holds the largest presence in Central Florida.
The Faellas were arrested Friday on several charges, including one that involves “paramilitary training.” They were released from the Osceola County Jail after posting $500,000 bond each. Neither returned a call seeking comment Tuesday, and a man who identified himself as Marcus Faella’s father would not discuss the allegations.
(c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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