A man accused of plotting to bomb a historic Colorado synagogue has been indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and arson charges.
Richard Holzer, 27, was arrested earlier this month by the FBI for allegedly planning to blow up the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. The 119-year-old structure is considered the state’s second-oldest synagogue, according to the indictment.
The grand jury returned a three-count indictment for Holzer, who was initially charged with attempting to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs with the attempted use of explosives, a hate crime. The additional charges are one count of attempted arson and one count of using fire or an explosive device to commit a felony offense, according to the indictment.
Holzer allegedly wanted to shut down the synagogue and send a message to the congregation that they were not welcome, the indictment said.
He talked about killing Jews in forums online and shared video of himself casing a synagogue in Pueblo, according to a criminal complaint. He has described himself as a skinhead, and shared pictures of himself with other social media users with guns and knives alongside white supremacist symbols, the complaint said.
Holzer, according to prosecutors, wrote on one Facebook account: “I wish the Holocaust really did happen …. they need to die.”
FBI agents arrested Holzer on November 1 after he examined inert pipe bombs prepared by undercover agents.
Holzer is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in federal court in Denver. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
A public defender representing Holzer declined to comment on the case.
Undercover agents helped arrest him
The FBI began its investigation after receiving a tip in late September regarding comments Holzer made online indicated “a possible threat to the community,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips told reporters earlier this month.
Undercover FBI agents approached Holzer online soon after the tip and were interacting with him as he allegedly plotted the attack on Temple Emanuel. In a meeting with three undercover agents at a restaurant in Colorado Springs last month, Holzer proposed using Molotov cocktails to destroy the Pueblo synagogue, according to the complaint.
“I want something that tells them they are not welcome in this town,” Holzer allegedly said. “Let’s get that place off the map.”
On the night of November 1, Holzer donned a Nazi armband and drove with an undercover agent to a motel. There, he toasted a “move for our race” and commented that the pipe bombs, which authorities said had been prepared with simulated black powder at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, looked “absolutely gorgeous,” according to the complaint.
The FBI arrested him soon afterward and took him to a local police station, where he admitted to planning to blow up the synagogue, the complaint says.
In court documents, officials called him a domestic terrorist and described his alleged anti-Semitic ideology and desires for a racial holy war.
He also said he paid a “witch doctor” $70 to put arsenic in the water pipes of the synagogue and “hex” the place last year, according to the complaint.
Temple Emanuel Congregation President Michael Atlas-Acuña told CNN the small Jewish community of about 35 families hasn’t had any similar threats in the past.
“The Pueblo community has embraced the Jewish community and we’ve never had any kind of threats or vandalism or anything like this,” Atlas-Acuña said. Holzer, he said, is a “transplant” and not from Pueblo.
The synagogue has had security guards, though, for the past few years, after shootings in other places, he said, and a sign in front states it isn’t a gun-free zone, Atlas-Acuña said.
The temple is 119 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places, Atlas-Acuña said. It’s never been closed for any reason, and services will be held as usual after this week’s threat.
CNN’s David Shortell contributed to this report.