South Jersey man admits organizing neo-Nazi group’s ‘Operation Kristallnacht’ synagogue vandalism campaign
Richard Tobin, of Brooklawn, also told FBI agents he recently sat in the parking lot of the Menlo Park Mall in Middlesex County with a machete willing himself to 'let loose' on Black shoppers.
A Camden County man admitted in court Friday that he organized the vandalism of two Midwestern synagogues earlier this year with fellow members of a neo-Nazi social group known as The Base.
Richard Tobin, 18, of Brooklawn, recruited perpetrators who carried out the September 2019 attacks in Michigan and Wisconsin in encrypted social media chats in which he called for a campaign he dubbed “Operation Kristallnacht” — a reference to the organized ransacking of Jewish homes, schools, and hospitals by Nazi paramilitaries and civilians in Germany in 1938.
“If there’s a window that wants to be broken, don’t be shy,“ he wrote in the days leading up to the incidents. “Focus on broad antiwhite elements for now. Jew businesses, etc.”
When FBI agents later tracked Tobin down, he also confessed to obsessively plotting more violent action, and, in one case, got as far as sitting in the parking lot of the Menlo Park Mall in Middlesex County with a machete willing himself to “let loose” on Black shoppers.
During a brief hearing in federal court in Camden, Tobin told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler that since his arrest in 2019 he has undergone mental health treatment, which has helped him manage his violent urges.
He said little else during the hearing, appearing via videoconference from his home, where he remains under house arrest. He now faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights.
His attorney, federal public defender Lisa Evans Lewis, declined to comment.
Tobin’s case is just one instance of what New Jersey Homeland Security officials have described as a growing risk from white supremacist groups in the state. Last year, New Jersey became one of the first in the nation to declare white nationalist extremism one of the state’s top terrorism threats and warned of the potential for political violence surrounding the 2020 election.
Federal authorities said little in court Friday about how they linked Tobin to the 2019 synagogue vandalisms, more than 800 miles from his home.
But court filings in his case indicate that once they found him, he was more than willing to discuss his role in the attacks.
He spoke openly, the documents say, about his involvement in The Base, founded in 2018 by a former North Bergen, N.J., resident and ex-Villanova philosophy student, Rinaldo Nazzaro.
Nazzaro, who claims to be a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, has advocated for a race war and encouraged attendance among the group’s members at real-world military training camps organized to resist “our people’s extinction.” The organization runs secretive “hate camps” across the country to offer members firearms training and lessons in survival skills.
Investigators discovered several manuals on topics ranging from carrying out lone-wolf terror attacks, gunsmithing, data mining, bomb making, and guerrilla warfare on Tobin’s computer, court filings say.
At the time of his arrest, Tobin allegedly told them he thought about committing “suicide by cop” and that he thought carrying out a suicide bombing would be “pretty badass.”
As for the synagogue vandalisms, Tobin admitted to orchestrating the attacks with members of The Base’s “Great Lakes Cell.”
Within days of Tobin’s call to arms, the first target — Temple Jacob in Hancock, Mich. — was hit, leaving congregants to scrub off the swastika and Nazi iconography spray-painted on their building’s facade.
The next day, the Beth Israel Sinai Congregation in Racine, Wis. — six hours away, down the coast of Lake Michigan — was also targeted. Tobin, according to court filings, named the man behind that attack as a Base member he knew only as “Joseph.”
Undercover agents were later able to identify him as Yousef Omar Barasneh, 23, of Oak Creek, Wis., who responded to Tobin’s call for violence on their encrypted messaging network.
“Imagine if across the country on local news, everyone is reporting on a new Nazi presence,” he wrote, and later messaged Tobin a local news story about the synagogue he had marred. A month later, Barasneh attended a Base gathering in Silver Lake, Ga., that Tobin had also planned to attend.
There, according to court filings, an FBI agent who had infiltrated the group witnessed him and the other attendees participating in weapons and combat training and a ritualistic neo-Nazi sacrifice of a goat, according to court filings in his case.
Barasneh pleaded guilty to similar conspiracy charges in federal court in Wisconsin in November. He is currently awaiting sentencing.