The latest round of legal problems for August B. Kreis III, the self-appointed director of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, is over now that a judge in South Carolina handed down a six-month sentence for his efforts to defraud the federal government.
Kreis was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail –– time he has already served –– in addition to six months of house arrest and two years of probation. But ever defiant, despite pleading guilty in August, Kreis remained unapologetic for his actions and the life he has led. “I don’t preach to hurt anybody, except the Jews, and I’ll keep doing that,” he said. “But that’s my First Amendment rights. As long as I obey God’s laws, I don’t care about anything else.”
The investigation that led to Kreis being charged began with a statement he made in 2005 to CNN, when he suggested the Aryan Nations form an alliance with Al Qaeda. “You say they’re terrorists, I say they’re freedom fighters,” Kreis said. “I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples’ heart, in the Aryan race, that they have for their father, who they call Allah.”
The statement drew the attention of the FBI.
D.J. Anderson, a spokesman for the Aryan Nations, told the Associated Press that the mainstream media had misinterpreted Kreis’ statements and that he only was pointing out that the group shared similar enemies with Al Qaeda. “That is where the similarities stop, for obvious reasons,” Anderson said. “Just the idea that a nationalist organization set up to promote the ideals of a white lifestyle, our culture and our heritage, would want to band up with an Islamic, fascist entity such as Al Qaeda, is — I don’t know.”
While the FBI found no link between Kreis and the terrorist organization that planned and paid for the 9/11 attacks, investigators did find problems in his books. Kreis had been using a need-based pension for military service, yet had failed to report thousands of dollars in other income.
In May, a grand jury in South Carolina returned an indictment charging Kreis with two counts of filing fraudulent statements to obtain veterans benefits, once in August 2006 and again in February 2008. A third count accused him of embezzling, stealing and converting to his own use more than $1,000 belonging to the United States.
While Kreis’ involvement with the Aryan Nations has in recent years been nominal, the case that has just finished represents something of a sad denouement in the life of a man who, for many years, was among the most visible henchmen of Aryan Nations.
A high school dropout, Kreis first took up with the white supremacist movement as a member of a Ku Klux Klan group in New Jersey in the late 1970s. Sometime in the late 1980s, he became heavily involved in Christian Identity, a violently racist and anti-Semitic theology. He studied the religion, which describes Jews as biologically Satanic and people of color as soulless “muds,” under prominent Christian Identity pastor James Wickstrom, who had organized paramilitary training for the Posse Comitatus, a loosely organized band of anti-Semitic survivalists dedicated to vigilantism and antigovernment radicalism.
Sometime in 1999, however, Kreis joined the Aryan Nations and rapidly began working his way into the good graces of the neo-Nazi group’s aged leader, Richard Butler, who invited Kreis to deliver a keynote address at a three-day Aryan World Congress held that summer at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Soon thereafter, Butler installed Kreis in the position of Aryan Nations webmaster, and then “Regional Ambassador for the Northeast,” meaning Kreis nominally coordinated Aryan Nations activities in seven states.
The height of his fame came compliments not of his actions with the Aryan Nations, however, but on daytime television, where he was a frequent guest on the Jerry Springer Show. In a 1995 show, he wore a priest’s collar and almost got into a fight with the Jewish host after denying the Holocaust took place.
“I’ve got your mom in the trunk of my car,” Kreis told Springer that day. “Your relatives — weren’t they all turned into soap or lampshades? I’m looking for one of those lampshades.”