Thanks in part to Santa Claus stamps, a leader of the neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division, or AWD, has been sentenced to three years in prison for threatening journalists and activists.
Cameron Shea, 25, was first arrested in February 2020. He pleaded guilty in April to federal hate crime and conspiracy charges and was sentenced Tuesday.
Under his alias “Krokodil,” Shea was the primary recruiter for AWD, which has been linked to numerous murders since 2017 and a series of terror-related crimes across the U.S. Shea, of Redmond, Washington, was active with the group both online and offline. AWD’s stated end goal is to hasten the collapse of the government to build a white ethnostate from its ashes.
A big point of conversation within AWD—aside from the obvious racist talking points—was the fact that journalists continued to investigate the group, exposing the identities of members who were trying to stay anonymous and avoid prosecution. Eventually, AWD began “Operation Ertse Saule,” a nationwide campaign of intimidation against journalists perceived to have done the group wrong.
“We’re coordinating this nationwide Operation called Operation Ertse Saule, named after the first pillar of state power, AKA the media,” Shea wrote in an encrypted chatroom used by the group in November 2019. “We will be postering journalists’ houses and media buildings to send a clear message that we too have leverage on them.
"The goal, of course, is to erode the media/state air of legitimacy by showing people that they have names and addresses and hopefully embolden others to act as well.”
A criminal complaint claims that Shea and Kaleb Cole, another former leader of AWD who is facing similar charges, masterminded the operation. Cole is fighting the case in court and is set to appear in September.
According to court documents viewed by VICE News, the Ertse Saule gang extensively planned the operation. The neo-Nazis started with creating a list of journalists they planned on targeting, made threatening posters insinuating the journalists were surveilling them, found their addresses, devised ways to film the delivery of the posters and disseminate the videos online, and discussed at length the pros and cons of hand-delivering their threats versus mailing them. The list of people AWD eventually settled on targeting included reporters who focused on the group, as well as Jewish and Black journalists. Each poster contained a blank spot at the bottom where the group would post the target’s address and name.
The group hoped the op would be, as Shea described it in a dedicated chat room, “a show of force, demonstrating we are capable of massive coordination.” He and others closed down the chat group on Jan. 22, 2020, and the FBI, which was, unbeknownst to the group, monitoring it, warned the intended targets.
Two of the posters that were handed out by Atomwaffen Division members. Photo via Department of Justice.
On Jan. 29, 2020, the FBI, which was actively monitoring Shea, saw him go into a store while wearing a surgical mask and hat to obscure his identity and buy Santa Claus stamps. Shortly thereafter, a reporter who had worked on the AWD file and an ADL employee both received posters sent with—you guessed it—the same Santa Claus stamps. Around that time, others active in the chat dropped posters off at targets’ houses across the country, including in Florida and Arizona.
The federal attorneys argued that Shea deserved to be sentenced to more stringent time than his co-defendants, writing in a sentencing memorandum that “in addition to introducing the plot and helping to organize it... Shea’s conduct… extended beyond the mere actions that he carried out.
“He participated in the conspiracy with enthusiasm,” federal attorneys wrote. “He cheered on other participants, and encouraged them to identify additional victims to target. He recruited members for Atomwaffen. And he repeatedly encouraged and glorified hate.”
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour seemingly agreed with the attorney’s arguments, and during the sentencing hearing said, “This conduct cannot be tolerated. This kind of conduct has consequences… It is so serious that it requires a serious sentence.” While Shea received three years of prison time, his co-defendants, Taylor Parker-Dipeppe and Johnny Garza, were sentenced to time served and 16 months, respectively.
Shea and four other members of the operation were arrested in nationwide raids in February 2020. The 25-year-old is the latest neo-Nazi in this milieu to be sentenced to multiple years behind bars for his actions inside of a group like AWD. John Cameron Denton, 24, another former Atomwaffen leader, was sentenced to three years in May for his involvement in a swatting ring. Multiple members of the Base, an adjacent organization, were arrested for a series of crimes including producing the drug D.M.T., making an illegal ghost gun, an assassination plot, and harboring and transporting an illegal alien.