Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A self-identified neo-Nazi has pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges for plotting to blow up a Colorado synagogue, prosecutors said.
The Justice Department said in a release that Richard Holzer, 28, pleaded guilty Thursday to planning to destroy Pueblo's Temple Emanuel Synagogue, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"The defendant attempted to bomb the Temple Emanuel Synagogue to drive people of Jewish faith out of his community," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. "Violence motivated by religious intolerance strikes at the heart of a free society, and the Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these violent acts of hate."
Holzer was arrested in the early hours of Nov. 2, 2019, after having met up with undercover FBI agents the evening prior who gave him fabricated explosive devices that he admitted in his plea he intended to use to blow the religious building.
According to prosecutors, prior to accepting the two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite, which he was unaware of were inert, Holzer removed a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf from his bag and told the agents that "this is a move for our race."
The complaint states FBI agents began communicating with Holzer and tracking his multiple Facebook accounts that he used to promote White supremacist ideology in September 2019.
On Sept. 28, an undercover agent posing as a White woman supportive of White supremacist ideology contacted Holzer on Facebook and he sent the agent pictures of himself wearing clothing with Nazi symbols and posing with firearms and other weapons.
The Justice Department said that Holzer visited the synagogue to observe its congregants and after one such visit told undercover agents that he wanted to do something to tell Pueblo's Jewish residents that they weren't welcome there.
"During a meeting with undercover agents to discuss his plans, Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred for Jewish people and suggested using explosive devices to destroy the synagogue," the Justice Department said in the release. "Holzer told the undercover agents that he wanted to 'get that place off the map.'"
Prosecutors said that Holzer admitted he coordinated with undercover agents to obtain the explosive devices.
"This is the most important work that we can do -- protecting our communities by stopping an attack before it occurred," U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn for the District of Colorado said in a statement. "The people of Pueblo and the State of Colorado are safer as a result of today's guilty plea and the outstanding work of prosecutors and the FBI."
Holzer is charged with intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs through force and the attempted use of explosives and fire as well as attempting to maliciously damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce by means of fire and explosives.
"The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism as they involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that were intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population," the Justice Department said.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2021. Holzer faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the hate crime charge and 20 years in prison for the explosives charge, a $250,000 fine and a term of supervised release.