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More Suspects Sought in White Supremacist Plot

July 17, 1993|JIM NEWTON and DAVID FREED | TIMES STAFF WRITERS; Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Marla Cone, De Tran and Jodi Wilogren in Orange County, Leslie Berger in the San Fernando Valley, Roxana Kopetman in Long Beach, and Mike Connelly, Sonia Nazario and Andrea Ford in Los Angeles

As they continue to investigate violent white supremacists in Southern California, federal agents are searching for suspects who may have supplied illegal weapons to alleged hate group members arrested this week and are probing the workings of a shadowy band of skinheads accused of plotting to start a race war, sources said Friday.

"This thing is still moving very quickly," said one person familiar with the investigation. "There could still be more people pulled in" and arrested.

Meanwhile, records obtained Friday show that one of the eight suspects in custody, Josh Daniel Lee, is a federally licensed gun dealer. That license--issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms--allowed Lee to buy guns through the mail and sell them to others, but it did not permit him to sell machine guns or illegal weapons.

Authorities said Lee sold a machine gun and four other guns to an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the Fourth Reich Skinheads, who were allegedly plotting to kill Rodney G. King and blow up the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 28, 1993 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 5 Metro Desk 2 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Gun dealer--A July 17 story in the Orange County Edition and a July 27 editorial about an investigation of white supremacists mischaracterized allegations against Costa Mesa resident Josh Daniel Lee. He is accused of selling illegal weapons to an FBI informant. Lee's attorney says Lee had no connection with white supremacists.

But sources said many of the weapons seized in raids this week--including dozens of machine guns, revolvers, sawed-off shotguns and pipe bombs--did not appear to come from Lee. Investigators are trying to trace those weapons, which may lead them to additional suspects, sources said.

"If this case shows us anything," said George Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the BATF office in Los Angeles, "it's the relative ease with which groups like this can come up with weaponry like that."

BATF officials in Washington said they had little choice in issuing Lee a license to sell guns.

"Political philosophy has nothing to do with it," agency spokesman Jack Killorin said. "The way the law is written, unless you're a convicted felon, you get a license. . . . If, in fact, you want to put down on your application 'American Nazi Gun Shop,' we have no ability under the law to shut you down."

News of the investigation became public Thursday, when officials announced that they were filing charges against six adults and two juveniles accused of violating federal weapons laws. One of the adults, Christopher David Fisher, 20, of Long Beach, also was accused of leading the Fourth Reich Skinheads in plots to kill King and blow up the First AME Church. The two juveniles also are reputed members of the Fourth Reich Skinheads, but the other five suspects are not.

In other developments Friday:

* The Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed a single felony count against one of the two minors arrested this week in connection with the federal investigation of alleged white supremacist groups. The 17-year-old Long Beach resident, who was not identified because of his age, was charged with the sale and transportation of a pipe bomb in addition to the charges lodged against him Thursday in federal court.

* Federal prosecutors were weighing the evidence against the various suspects and, sources said, they were considering possible civil rights charges against Fisher and any other suspects tied to the plot to bomb the First AME Church. Those sources added, however, that the civil rights laws may be difficult to apply in this case.

* Some of those who were allegedly mentioned as targets of the skinheads protested that they had never been warned by authorities. FBI agents responded by saying that only King and leaders of the First AME Church were thought to be in real danger, and that they were warned.

The FBI had investigated the suspected white supremacists for 18 months, but abruptly ended the covert portion of the inquiry this week because agents feared that they could no longer keep the activities of the Fourth Reich Skinheads in check.

During the last few days, the group had grown increasingly violent in its rhetoric and had begun pushing forward with its plans to launch attacks, investigators said Friday. On Wednesday night, members of the skinhead group allegedly gathered and began preparing mail bombs that Marc R. Greenberg, the lead prosecutor in the case, said were going to be sent to members of the Orange County Jewish community.

Those bombs were going to be sent imminently, investigators added. The raids were launched Thursday morning.

When investigators decided to close the investigation of Fisher and the Fourth Reich Skinhead group, they also ended their other white supremacist investigations because they feared publicity would expose their undercover operatives, officials said.

Although that prematurely concluded an 18-month undercover investigation, agents collected a large inventory of weapons during that time. Friday, as they catalogued that arsenal, agents for the first time disclosed exactly what they had seized.

The eight suspects, agents said Friday, had stockpiled 34 firearms or explosives including nearly two dozen machine guns as well as rifles, sawed-off shotguns, revolvers, bayonets, four pipe bombs and a Molotov cocktail.

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