SEATTLE — Federal prosecutors have charged a man whom they described as a former white-supremacist leader with harassing journalists, a Cabinet official, a university and a church by calling the police and reporting false threats.
The charges, announced on Wednesday in Virginia against the man, John Cameron Denton, 26, are part of a broader recent crackdown by federal law enforcement on violent white supremacists in the United States. More arrests were expected to be announced later Wednesday in Seattle in what prosecutors described as a “violent extremist investigation.”
Court documents describe Mr. Denton as a former leader in the Atomwaffen Division, a small paramilitary neo-Nazi group. Prosecutors accuse him of harassment through “swatting,” in which someone calls the police and falsely describes an imminent threat at a specific location, causing the authorities to respond in force.
In one case, prosecutors said Mr. Denton’s swatting efforts targeted an investigative journalist at ProPublica because he was angry that the news organization had named him while reporting on the Atomwaffen Division.
In other cases in 2018 and 2019, prosecutors said, Mr. Denton and others placed swatting calls that targeted Old Dominion University, Alfred Street Baptist Church and an unnamed Cabinet official who the authorities said was under Secret Service protection. Last month, prosecutors said, Mr. Denton met with an undercover F.B.I. agent and described his efforts.
“Denton said that if he was ‘raided’ for swatting ProPublica then it would be good for Atomwaffen Division because the swatting would be seen as a top-tier crime,” Jonathan Myles Lund, an F.B.I. agent, wrote in an affidavit. The affidavit named 134 different law enforcement agencies that investigators believe were part of the swatting calls made by Mr. Denton and others.
Federal investigators have been increasingly scrutinizing those who have been involved in the Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to a series of killings. Late last year, authorities in King County, Wash., charged Kaleb James Cole with unlawful possession of a gun after he was stopped by the police in Texas. Previously, authorities in Washington State had sought to take away Mr. Cole’s guns under a “red flag” law that allows a court to remove weapons from someone who is deemed a threat. Mr. Cole was accused of being a leader of Atomwaffen’s chapter in Washington.
Another member of Atomwaffen, Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh, who was traveling with Mr. Cole in Texas, pleaded guilty earlier this month to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person. Mr. Bruce-Umbaugh is also from Washington.
Last month, F.B.I. agents and local authorities arrested seven suspected members of the Base, another neo-Nazi group that aspires to ignite wider violence that would lead to the creation of a white ethno-state. The group’s leader operates from Russia. The investigation into the Base is considered one of the agency’s most important domestic terrorism cases.