Federal agents arrested a white supremacist in Colorado last week for planning to bomb a synagogue, according to a complaint filed by the FBI on Saturday.
Richard Holzer, 27, of Pueblo, Colorado, was arrested Friday and charged with attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
He was charged with a hate crime and his alleged actions “constitute domestic terrorism,” U.S. attorney Jason Dunn said at a press conference Monday.
Holzer planned to use pipe bombs and dynamite to attack Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, located about 110 miles south of Denver, early Saturday morning, according to the FBI’s complaint.
Federal agents learned of Holzer’s plan after reaching out to him covertly on Facebook, where he managed several accounts that promoted white supremacist ideology and racist acts of violence, the complaint alleges.
In his posts on social media, Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support of a “racial holy war,” Dunn said.
An FBI agent posing as a female white supremacist initiated contact on Sept. 28 with Holzer, who told her he used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan but is now a skinhead.
He sent the covert FBI agent photos of himself with gun, and a video that showed him urinating on what appeared to be the front door of a Jewish center, according to the complaint.
Holzer later told her that he paid a Mexican cook $70 to “poison” Temple Emanuel by putting arsenic in the synagogue’s water pipes on Oct. 31 last year. He said he hoped to do it again a year later.
In his communications with undercover FBI agents, Holzer also said he wanted to do something that would let Jewish people in the Pueblo community know “they should leave or they would die,” Dunn said. Holzer allegedly told agents he wanted to destroy the synagogue and, in his words, “get that place off the map.”
Undercover FBI agents, posing as white supremacists, met with Holzer in person on Oct. 17. He told the agents that the synagogue was shut down for months after the alleged arsenic attack last year and that he wanted to do it again to “make them know they’re not wanted here.” He also said he wanted to use explosives during this year’s planned attack.
The undercover agents met with Holzer several more times. On Nov. 1, they purported to present him with two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite. The devices were inert and merely props produced by the FBI, but Holzer examined them and called them “absolutely gorgeous.”
Holzer said they would carry out the attack around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 2, according to the complaint. He was arrested soon after. Upon questioning, Holzer admitted that he planned to bomb the synagogue and called Jewish people a “cancer,” the complaint states.
Holzer, who is currently in federal custody, made an initial court appearance Monday and will have a hearing on Thursday, Dunn said. An FBI spokesperson said in Monday’s press conference that the agency does not believe there is any remaining public safety threat.
The arrest comes just days after the anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, in which an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist gunned down 11 people and injured six others.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise nationwide in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League reported in April that assaults against Jewish people in 2018 were more than double the number reported in 2017.
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman contributed reporting.