Army Soldier Charged in Neo-Nazi Plot to Attack His Own Unit: Federal Authorities

Federal authorities announced charges against U.S. soldier in neo-Nazi attack.
The federal indictment was unsealed Monday.Getty

Private Ethan Melzer wanted to cause “the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible,” federal prosecutors said.

A U.S. Army soldier shared sensitive military intelligence with a satanic, neo-Nazi terror group to cause “the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible,” according to federal prosecutors. Ethan Melzer, a private from Kentucky, collaborated with the Order of the Nine Angles, or O9A, an organization authorities identified as “an occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group," according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday in New York City.

“Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan. Strauss assumed her position over the weekend, after her boss, Geffrey Berman, was fired by Attorney General William Barr.

Melzer acknowledged he provided overseas troop movement details to the extremist group, the indictment said. In custody, he told investigators he was “a traitor against the United States” and described his actions as “tantamount to treason,” the indictment said. If convicted, Melzer could face up to life in prison.

His attorney, Jennifer Willis, has declined comment on the case.

The FBI and the Army said they thwarted the plan before it could be carried out. Melzer, 22, was arrested June 10.

O9A promotes “violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and Satanic beliefs,” and expresses admiration for Adolf Hitler and Islamic terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, prosecutors said. The group is based in Britain and its members have engaged in violence and murder, federal prosecutors said.

Followers communicate on encrypted apps such as Telegram, which Melzer allegedly used to illegally provide troop movements and military capability details in a planned ambush of his own unit, the indictment said. 

An attack on an unnamed overseas military base was also plotted, federal authorities said. Melzer wanted "to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group,” Strauss said.

The soldier enlisted in 2018, and joined the group a year later, prosecutors said.

Melzer immersed himself in O9A propaganda and tracts published by ISIS, prosecutors said.

Federal agents discovered an iCloud account Melzer used, which contained an Islamic State paper on the killing of American military members, prosecutors said.

In a message to the group, Melzer said he realized the planned attack could kill him, authorities said. He wrote, “Who gives a f***," adding “I would’ve died successfully … (because) another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark," according to prosecutors.