According to records on file with the Maricopa County Superior Court, the investigators of the Phoenix Police Department's elite Career Criminal Squad, with the assistance of the local Anti-Defamation League, have crushed the Arizona contingent of the Vinlanders Social Club, one of the most violent and feared racist skinhead organizations in America.
More than a dozen members or associates of the local Vinlanders gang have been taken down over the past year for charges ranging from drug possession and misconduct involving firearms to aggravated assault and murder. The ADL provided the CCS with crucial information leading to these arrests.
Two of the reputed Vinlanders have been indicted in last year's drive-by slaying of Kelly Jaeger, a 39-year old Caucasian woman killed near 4th Street and Puget Avenue while walking late at night with her African-American boyfriend, Jeffery Wellmaker.
At the time, police described how the pair had been accosted by a bald, tattooed white man, who reportedly confronted the 48-year old Wellmaker with the question, "What are you doing with that white woman?"
The white man later returned, according to Wellmaker, blasting the couple with a shotgun fired from the passenger seat of a car. Jaeger was killed. Wellmaker was wounded. Police were reluctant to label the incident a hate crime. A police spokesman told me weeks later it was believed that the shooting was a drug deal gone awry.
But to judge by court documents, the Phoenix PD and the Maricopa County Attorney's office are now convinced that alleged Vinlanders Travis Ricci, 29, and Aaron Schmidt, 28, are responsible for the racially-motivated shootings. Both are currently in 4th Avenue Jail charged with first degree murder, aggravated assault, attempted murder, and other crimes.
Their bonds? Three million dollars a piece.
Schmidt was captured September 1, in Livingston, Tennessee, a few days after a sealed grand jury indictment had been issued. Ricci was already in custody, having been collared earlier this year for allegedly putting his girlfriend's head through a wall and stabbing the two guys who came to her defense, one in the neck, the other in the hand.
Both Schmidt and Ricci are identified in court records as Vinlanders. My information is that Schmidt is the alleged driver, Ricci the alleged trigger man. But I have yet to confirm these details.
Another reputed Vinlander currently cooling his heels in county is David Alan Fecke Stoudt, who allegedly attempted to intimidate a witness in the case. The probable cause statement for Stoudt claims that he visited the home of the witness with a massive Hungarian Vinlander by the name of Gabor Huszar, and that Huszar and Stoudt warned of what might happen to informants.
"Approximately two weeks after the homicide," reads the statement, "the victim was visited at his residence by two known VSC [Vinlanders Social Club] gang members David Fecke Stoudt and Gabor Huszar...The victim was told to make sure no one was talking or the Vinlanders would deal with them. The victim believed this meant death to him or anyone who spoke of this."
Stoudt has been charged with two felony counts of hindering prosecution and one felony count of assisting a criminal street gang. He's also in 4th Avenue on a $150,000 cash bond.
Huszar, once a bouncer at a local strip club, is now in the Pima County Jail on a $150K bond. The Hungarian citizen is charged in Pima County on another matter, but he's also been indicted in Maricopa County with a felony count of assisting a criminal street gang.
One other alleged Vinlander snagged is Charles "Whitey" Mullen, an ex-con and prohibited possessor, arrested with three pistols in his residence and a stash of marijuana in his freezer.
Mullen reportedly has a picture of Nazi Rudolf Hess tattooed on the side of his torso, and one of Adolf Hitler on his head. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Hitler wanted Hess executed if he ever came into German hands after his flight to England in 1941.
Anyone familiar with the Vinlanders' reputation will not be surprised by the violence associated with them. In 2008, the Vinlanders' co-founder Eric "The Butcher" Fairburn pleaded guilty to felony battery in the beat-down of a homeless black man in Indianapolis as a crowd of witnesses looked on. The victim made the mistake of commenting on one of Fairburn's many tattoos.
You can read more about Fairburn and the Vinlanders in a piece on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Web site, penned in part by ex-New Times scribe David Holthouse.
Interestingly, Fairburn, 36, recently turned himself in to police in Springfield, Missouri, and confessed to a six-year old murder of a man named William McDaniel. A former guitarist for the skinhead band RAHOWA (neo-Nazi shorthand for "Racial Holy War"), Fairburn once had a tattoo of the word "MURDER" across the front of his neck. He's since changed it to a laurel-leaf tattoo.
Likely, Fairburn didn't find Jesus, but rather knew something big was happening with the arrests of Aaron Schmidt and others. Perhaps it's part of some plan on his part to curry favor with authorities. Missouri news station KY3 News reports that cops there believe the murder of McDaniel was in retaliation for McDaniel running over a friend of Fairburn's, who later died of his injuries.
VSC violence is not confined to minorities or non-white supremacists. In 2006, at a "Nordic Fest" held in Kentucky, enraged, drunken Vinlanders beat down a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, who had delivered an insult in his speech to the crowd, saying that the NSM was more than a social club that liked to drink a lot.
As soon as the NSM-er left the stage, the Vinlanders jumped him, mercilessly kicking and punching him in front of his spouse and their 10 year-old child.
Though strongest in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio, the Vinlanders also operate in several other states, of which Arizona is one. They assert an ideology of "modern tribalism," and adhere to a set of neopagan beliefs known as Asatru and Odinism.
Despite some claims to the contrary, they are openly racist, as this 2007 statement from co-founder Brien James attests:
"The basic premise that ALL white people are superior and decent is flawed. They are not. Our own people have harmed us the most. This movement specifically has the ability to attract the lowest common denominator. By the same token all non-whites are not savage beasts that have to be treated with disrespect in order to maintain ones `white power' credentials."
The language insisting that not all whites are superior and not all non-whites are savages is the key to this passage.
According to the SPLC, James once stomped a man nearly to death for not doing the Hitler salute at a party. The SPLC quotes him as saying, "I have been tried for attempted murder and multiple batteries and hate crimes...My JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] file is a mile long."
As of now, the VSC in Arizona has been shut down. Although other detectives in the Phoenix PD participated in the investigations of the Vinlanders, and other agencies such as the ATF assisted, the names of the detectives in the PPD's Career Criminal Squad are all over the court records.
The CCS, which is dedicated to fighting street level organized crime and murder-for-hire cases, has been directly responsible for securing convictions against racist lowlifes like Chad Kerns, convicted for his part in two brutal skinhead attacks in 2007. One involved the stabbing of a black man outside a Walgreens. The other, a beat-down of a Hispanic man at the Phoenix bar Rogue West.
Kerns is now doing 10 years in the state pen.
The CCS also pursues crimes involving non-white supremacists, like the murder-for-hire case involving Cigar Warehouse owner Dimitri Rozenman, convicted this year of conspiracy to commit murder. He'd contracted to have his wife and members of her family offed. The CCS stepped in, and scored Rozenman's arrest before anything untoward could occur.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Despite these detectives' tirelessness, dedication, and effectiveness, the CCS was on the budget chopping block back in April, in part because of internal PPD politics. Fortunately Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos prevented the disbanding of the unit at the last minute. However, I've been hearing rumblings that the CCS could again be facing the ax.
This would be a tragedy of immense proportions for the citizens of Phoenix. Although the FBI's 2009 stats on hate crimes have yet to be released, the stats I obtained directly from the PPD indicated a dramatic spike in hate crimes from 2008 to 2009.
With a down economy and white supremacist activity on the rise, we need the CCS to continue its vital work now more than ever. Arizona is a cauldron of ethnic and racial animus in the wake of the passage of SB 1070. Racist skinheads are drawn to the Grand Canyon State because of this hate-filled climate. Minus the CCS, the terror and the crimes these racist thugs commit would likely go unchecked, unsolved.
Let's hope that the PPD doesn't do something stupid and disband this anti-racist A-Team. This city needs a push-back to the rise in hate crimes. And the CCS provides that in a way no other force can.