ST. CLOUD — A neo-Nazi motorcycle gang created by an undercover law-enforcement unit to investigate white supremacists and racist bikers has helped topple two domestic-terrorism groups in Central Florida.
The original investigation began in 2007, when an undisclosed agent traded emails with August Kreis III, a leader of the Aryan Nations hate group who wanted to form a Nazi motorcycle club to serve as the militant arm for white supremacists across the country, according to records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
Using a false identity, the agent with the Orange County Sheriff's Office became the Aryan Nations' top Florida administrator responsible for recruiting members for what would become the 1st SS Kavallerie Brigade Motorcycle Division — operating out of a clubhouse in St. Cloud.
Early members included at least two additional undercover FBI agents — who infiltrated the club — and a biker accused of offering $1,000 to anyone willing to shoot a black man riding an ATV in rural Osceola County, records show.
"The underlying aspect through all of it was that they were obtaining explosives and explosives expertise, and they intended to use them to kill people in the United States," Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar told the Sentinel last week about what he characterized as the region's most complex undercover operation in decades.
"We have a duty to stop what they were doing."
The two cases — the motorcycle club and the takedown of the American Front white-supremacist group in Osceola in May — have resulted in 20 arrests on charges ranging from unsuccessful bomb and murder plots to drug dealing, illegal firearms possession and conducting paramilitary training to prepare for a race war.
Hidden mikes, cameras
Once one of America's largest white-supremacist groups, the Aryan Nations broke into factions after losing a 2004 civil lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center that depleted the racist group's finances. In 2008, Kreis came to Central Florida to meet his new followers after Brian Klose became the new club's "Fuhrer."
A 6-foot-6 giant known for drinking from a 70-pound beer stein, Klose worked as an enforcer for the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which the U.S. Department of Justice describes as one of the country's largest "outlaw motorcycle gangs" with a long, violent history in Florida. A doting son of elderly parents, he opened the Kavallerie Brigade's clubhouse within walking distance of their St. Cloud home on Old Canoe Creek Road.
The Sentinel obtained hundreds of pages of documents related to the two domestic-terrorism cases. The information in this report comes from them and from interviews with Lamar, some members of his staff and local law-enforcement officers.
Once the operation into the Kavallerie Brigade began, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force installed enough hidden microphones and cameras in the clubhouse to stage a reality-TV show.
Unaware of being filmed and recorded, Klose warned members to be wary of the post-9-11 Patriot Act, which gave police new surveillance powers, and to never admit they belonged to the Kavallerie Brigade.
Despite his wariness of police infiltration, Klose's in-house explosives experts turned out to be agents whom he asked repeatedly to build bombs and hand grenades for attacks he was planning.
Documents in the case show an agent reported to officials that he stalled Klose and others by claiming the explosives were difficult to make or easily traceable.
But on April 28, 2009, the agent detonated a remote-control bomb to show Klose what he could do. The blast so excited Klose, he fired a pistol and told the agent "he had a target for him to use the explosives on and that was the [rival] Warlock motorcycle gang's clubhouse."
By then, agents had become so entrenched in the group that three of them traveled with Klose to Chicago to meet with heads of the Outlaws' chapters about opening Kavallerie Brigade chapters there, records state. The outcome of the discussions was not disclosed.
In the spring of 2010, the local Joint Terrorism Task Force began looking at the American Front, another Nazi-influenced group of white supremacists rumored to be conducting combat training in rural Osceola County for a race war.
There were no law-enforcement officers inside that organization. Instead, that investigation relied on a former drug dealer working as a confidential informant for the government. In that capacity, the man received offers to join biker gangs and the Confederate Hammerskins, a skinhead group that required genetic testing to prove racial purity.
Emailing agents late at night, the informant reported on whom he met, the drugs they sold, the guns they carried and violent acts the group was planning.
Much of his work involved sitting on bar stools in Bithlo, Christmas and other small Central Florida towns where drinkers in places such as Hard Racks, Bottle Caps and the Soldier City Saloon belonged to racist groups and motorcycle gangs, according to copies of his emails.
By late summer 2010, the informant began hanging out at the American Front compound in Holopaw, where he joined members shooting AK-47s at water-filled jugs representing the heads of blacks and Jews.
Most of the combat training happened at that 10-acre compound, owned by American Front leader Marcus Faella. The informant mentioned that Faella also traded a motorcycle for a second plot of land — to use as a gun range — where a young black man had been killed, burned and buried in 2010 in a murder not related to the American Front or its members. American Front members used the desecrated grave as a urinal, records state.
The informant continued to work with authorities until his cover was blown in May. Fearing for his life, he called 911 while in a Melbourne movie theater where he had gone with American Front members to watch "The Three Stooges." Arrests of 14 members began May 4 and continued through June.
"I look forward to testifying against all of thease idiots furthermoor I want to thank you for this expeirance priar to this case I had no idea there was so much domestic terrism nor did I care. I will do what ever I can to aradicate domestic terrism and abroud," the informant wrote in an email shortly after the arrests began. "I don't need down time Im eager to get started on the next case!"
The American Front arrests resulted in death threats against the families of Lamar and Kelly Boaz, an Orange County deputy sheriff assigned to the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation who was the lead agent in both investigations.
Almost all the 14 arrested members of the American Front initially were held in lieu of $500,000 bail on charges of participating in paramilitary training evidencing prejudice and planning to shoot into an unidentified building.
'Al Capone theory'
Though the investigation into the Kavallerie Brigade continued until March 29, little information has been released about the group's activities in the past two years. The FBI would not comment while cases remain in court.
Six people were initially arrested in connection with the Kavallerie Brigade operation, including the wives of Klose and Chicago Outlaws President Peter "Big Pete" James.
Leah Klose, 41, faces a drug possession charge after being filmed in the clubhouse "snorting the cocaine after it was cut up by Brian Klose." A drug-possession charge against James' wife, 47-year-old Deborah Plowman, was later dropped, records show.
"This was an inept government investigation looking to throw a wide net to catch anyone doing anything," said Tarpon Springs attorney Jerry Theophilopoulos, who represents Deborah Plowman, whose charges were dropped because of a case of mistaken identity. "How they made such a glaring error is unimaginable."
Three of four remaining members of the Kavallerie Brigade who were arrested face bomb and drug-trafficking charges carrying mandatory sentences of 25 years in prison. The fourth faces bomb charges and a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
"We decided to strike against the Kavallerie Brigade by bringing these heavy-duty drug charges to shut the active members down," Assistant State Attorney Steve Foster said.
"I hate to be trite, but it's kind of the 'Al Capone theory' of prosecution," Foster said, referring to the notorious gangster ultimately brought down on tax-evasion charges. "We are going to remove them from our community."
Pretrial hearings in both cases begin this week for some of the defendants.
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