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The Career Criminal Squad Scores Again, Putting the Boot to Phoenix's Contingent of the Vinlanders Social Club

SKINHEADS IN STIR

There's a weird rumor going around that the Phoenix Police Department canceled a press conference planned for September 23 because of my Feathered Bastard blog post the day before.

In that post ("Vinlanders Vanquished," September 22), I detailed how the PPD's Career Criminal Squad had decimated the Arizona chapter of Vinlanders Social Club, one of the most violent racist skinhead groups in the country.

The rumor is, of course, not true. Reliable sources have informed me off the record that another agency — probably the FBI — asked that the presser be put on hold, as it was claimed that the agency had an ongoing investigation related to the more than a dozen busts of Vinlanders whom the CCS already had secured.

Still, the kibosh was put on the media event the same day that my post was published.

Someone at the PPD — I'm not naming names — called me and implied that I'd somehow compromised an ongoing investigation. However, this cop was more concerned with how I got the story than with the story itself, which is deadly accurate.

Other news outlets already had reported that one of the suspects, Aaron Schmidt, was nabbed on September 1 in Tennessee for his alleged involvement in last year's drive-by shotgun slaying of Kelly Jaeger in Phoenix.

The 39-year old Caucasian woman was killed near Fourth Street and Puget Avenue while walking late at night with African-American friend Jeffery Wellmaker.

These reports, however, did not note that Schmidt's alleged accomplice in the shooting, Travis Ricci, already was in custody, having been collared earlier this year and charged with putting his girlfriend's head through a wall and stabbing two guys — one in the neck, the other in the hand — who came to her defense.

In the indictments for the Jaeger homicide, both men are identified as Vinlanders. They are currently held in 4th Avenue Jail, charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and attempted murder, among other crimes.

Their bonds? Three million dollars each. I should note that Ricci and Schmidt have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

All this is public record, on file with the Maricopa County Superior Court, as is information related to the takedown of other Vinlanders and Vinlander associates, for everything from aggravated assault and gun charges to drug possession and homicide.

Though other PPD detectives and other agencies were involved in the yearlong investigation of the Vinlanders, the CCS deserves most of the credit. Indeed, the names of CCS detectives are all over the court records related to the Vinlanders' arrests.

I also know that the local Anti-Defamation League, as it has in the past, provided crucial information that assisted in the CCS' making these arrests.

The dismantling of this vicious white-supremacist crew should be a cause of pride within the PPD. The members of the CCS deserve medals for vanquishing the Vinlanders on Arizona soil.

In fact, before the CCS began probing it, the murder of Jaeger had been written off as a drug deal gone bad. That's what PPD flacks were telling me weeks after the shooting.

This, despite ample evidence that a hate crime had occurred.

At the time, police spokesmen described how the pair had been accosted late one October night 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 but survived.

Can you imagine if this blatantly racist killing had happened in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles? There would have been mass outrage, candlelight vigils, marches, and press conferences galore, with everyone from the mayor on down participating.

But Phoenix, to its shame, responded with sullen indifference. No wonder Arizona's the land of Senate Bill 1070, state Senator Russell Pearce, and neo-Nazi vigilante groups combing the desert for migrants.

The PPD should be trumpeting the Vinlanders Social Club's eradication in Arizona, particularly as hate crimes in Phoenix are up. Way up! Nearly 30 percent up from 2008 to 2009, according to stats provided by the PPD.

Now that the feline's out of the burlap sack because of my report, there's no reason for the PPD to hold back. All the indictments are unsealed. The alleged Vinlanders in custody and those who have been able to make bail already are making court appearances.

Another reputed Vinlander currently cooling his heels in county is David Fecke-Stoudt, who allegedly attempted to intimidate a witness in the case. The probable-cause statement for Fecke-Stoudt says he visited the home of the witness with a massive Hungarian Vinlander named Gabor Huszar, and that Huszar and Fecke-Stoudt warned of what might happen to informants.