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February 14, 2020

Ex-Philadelphia Navy Yard contractor sentenced to prison for lying to FBI about white supremacist ties

Fred Arena was found to be a member of Vanguard America when agents performed the background check for his security clearance

A former federal contractor at the Philadelphia Navy Yard was sentenced to six months in prison for denying to the FBI that he was a member of white supremacist group Vanguard America.

Fred Arena, 41, of Salem, New Jersey, was arrested in October after federal agents found he had lied during an FBI security questioning about his white supremacist ties and having financial difficulties. He was sentenced by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Thursday.

Arena, who pleaded guilty to charges in December, required an FBI security clearance for the Navy Yard position. He told investigators that he was not a member of Vanguard America and lied about his car recently being repossessed after he defaulted on the loan, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia said. 

Arena was sentenced for lying twice, first while applying for the clearance and later when agents questioned him about answers on his application. 

"Fred Arena lied about being a white supremacist to land a security clearance and government job he never should have had," said Tara A. McMahon, of the FBI's Philadelphia Division"When the FBI questioned him about his background, he continued this pattern of deception."

The FBI confirmed Arena connection with Vanguard America after an FBI agent messaged him online, posing as someone with similar white nationalist beliefs. Additionally, Arena's activity on Facebook proved his affiliation with the hate group. On his page, he posted pictures of himself brandishing a machine gun captioned "coming to a synagogue near you," and disturbing right-wing memes of violence against women, the Inquirer reported.

Vanguard America is defined by the Anti-Defamation League as a Neo-Nazi organization that arose out of the alt-right section of the white supremacist movement in 2016. Vanguard America members, including Area, attended the violent 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The group's beliefs are rooted in racism and anti-semitism, and it has been known to target Jewish institutions with its propaganda. 

Due to his violent statements, a judge denied Arena bail following his arrest in October. The sentence announced Thursday includes the approximately four months time-served. 

Following Arena's release in approximately two months, he will be supervised for two years. During this period,  U.S. District Judge John R. Padova ordered he is "barred from membership and participation in any organization that advocates or practices unlawful acts of force or violence."

"Under the terms of today's sentence, Arena's activities will be closely monitored by the Court and Probation after he finishes his jail term," U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said, "in order to prevent him from engaging in new criminal behavior that may violate the civil rights of others and endanger the public."

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