Dozens of people with ties to a white supremacy group were charged with operating a drug trafficking operation known for committing violent crimes, including kidnapping and attempted murder, throughout the state, according to an indictment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
The charges allege that leaders of the white supremacist group known as the New Aryan Empire oversaw and ordered multiple violent acts including solicitation of murder and attempted murder, kidnapping, and maiming.
Authorities said they were planning to execute arrest warrants for 54 people on Tuesday.
The indictment ties leaders of the group to crimes that group members allegedly committed over the years, including kidnapping a person and attacking another with guns, bats and knives.
“Members of the NAE engaged in acts of violence in this community in order to protect the criminal enterprise and further its goals,” said U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki while announcing the charges Tuesday afternoon in Russellville.
He likened the group to other street gangs, describing NAE as being a “violent and highly structured criminal organization operating in Arkansas” with members in the thousands.
The 32 charges also include distribution of methamphetamine and illegal gun possession.
“Methamphetamine is a scourge, it’s an absolute scourge,” said U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland. “Anything we can do to disrupt it is a good day.”
The New Aryan Empire reportedly formed in prison and has a “high concentration” of members in Pope County and Russellville, with an overall membership of about 5,000 people, the indictment said.
The 47-page indictment unsealed Tuesday details the inner workings of the organization, including its formation and leadership hierarchy that prosecutors described as a “militaristic” corporate structure.
Indictment in investigation into Arkansas white supremacy groupView
Officials said the group was formed by an inmate in the Pope County jail in the 1990s and founded on the principals of white supremacy. Leaders, referred to as the "high elders," began recruiting members both inside and outside of prison, according to court records.
Arkansas Department of Correction records from last month counted 233 inmates suspected of belonging to the New Aryan Empire in Arkansas prisons, the second highest for a white supremacist group.
Carla Hill, a senior investigator with the Anti-Defamation League, said white power prison gangs are often “crude versions” of other hate groups, merging imagery and views held by other white supremacists.
“They combine criminal know-how with the bigotry of a hate group,” she said.
The group expanded outside of correctional facilities.
Authorities said members often use the group’s initials and the number 234, which is found in tattoos and other imagery.
The indictment didn’t point to any specific acts of violence against people or groups often targeted by white power groups.
In 2017, authorities reported finding nearly 70 guns and 25 pounds of methamphetamine in a Russellville home. More than two dozen purported members of the New Aryan Empire were arrested, authorities said then.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas said it plans to use what’s known as a “RICO” indictment, which was created in the 1970s to prosecute mafia leaders and other organized criminals by tying them to crimes they ordered and oversaw.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 35 people remained in state or federal custody Tuesday ahead of court dates and 16 defendants were out on bond.
Three people were listed as fugitives.
Nine suspected leaders of the group are charged with conspiracy to violate RICO, which carries a maximum life sentence. All remained in custody Tuesday afternoon, according to the DOJ.
Hiland said it’s the first time officials have used the legal tool in 15 years. He vowed to continue using the statute for other criminal cases, including public corruption and white collar crimes.
“When you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound,” Hiland said.
Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Print Headline: Feds detail indictment of Arkansas white supremacist group