Ashley Luthern and Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
|The federal courthouse in Milwaukee. (Photo: Journal Sentinel file photo)|
A 22-year-old Oak Creek man charged with vandalizing a Racine synagogue was arrested Friday as part of a nationwide investigation into The Base, a neo-Nazi, racially motivated extremist group, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
Yousef O. Barasneh spray-painted swastikas and anti-Semitic words on Beth Israel Sinai Congregation in Racine last September and plotted other acts of vandalism against minority residents with the hate group, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Court records indicate he was arrested Friday, but not that he had appeared in court. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said it could not provide a booking photo, and Barasneh did not appear as a current inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail.
The FBI has been investigating the group for months and found it active in Wisconsin.
In June, recruitment flyers for the group were posted at Marquette University. The next month, the group had an armed training session in northern Wisconsin and posted photos to social media, court records say.
And the day before the Racine synagogue was vandalized, a synagogue in Michigan was tagged with similar racist graffiti.
According to court records:
One of the group's ringleaders became an informant and gave investigators details over the past several months. The documents in Barasneh's case do not name the person but note he has been federally charged in another state for his role.
The man admitted he directed the group to vandalize minority-owned properties, calling it “Operation Kristallnacht," a reference to Nazi Germany and the night Jewish homes, hospitals and other properties were ransacked and destroyed.
The man told investigators he said: "If there’s a window that wants to be broken, don’t be shy.”
He said a man known as Josef or Joseph in the group's chat room later sent a message with a news article about the Racine synagogue vandalism and claimed credit for the damage.
The informant said he never met Barasneh in person.