A Colorado man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to federal hate crime and explosives charges for plotting to blow up the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, according to federal prosecutors.
Richard Holzer, 27, was arrested by the FBI last November and indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and arson charges.
"Holzer pleaded guilty to intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs...and with attempting to maliciously damage and destroy, by means of fire and explosives, a building used in interstate commerce," the Justice Department announced Thursday.
"The actions Holzer admitted in the plea agreement meet the federal definition of domestic terrorism, as they involved criminal acts dangerous to human life that were intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population."
The FBI began its investigation of Holzer in late September after receiving a tip about comments he made online, the bureau's top official in Colorado said last year.
Undercover FBI agents approached Holzer online soon after the tip and interacted with him as he allegedly plotted the attack on Temple Emanuel, authorities said.
Holzer allegedly wanted to shut down the synagogue and send a message to the congregation that they were not welcome, according to the criminal complaint.
He talked about killing Jews in forums online and shared video of himself casing a synagogue in Pueblo, according to the complaint.
Officials said he described himself as a skinhead, and shared pictures of himself with other social media users with guns and knives alongside white supremacist symbols.
Holzer, according to prosecutors, wrote on one Facebook account: "I wish the Holocaust really did happen .... they need to die."
A public defender representing Holzer declined to comment on the case.
In a subsequent meeting with three undercover agents at a restaurant in Colorado Springs, Holzer proposed using Molotov cocktails to destroy the Pueblo synagogue, according to the complaint in his case.
"I want something that tells them they are not welcome in this town," Holzer said, referring to Jewish people in the community, adding, "Let's get that place off the map," according to the criminal complaint.
In a meeting with undercover FBI agents, authorities provided him with inert pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite, which authorities said had been prepared with simulated black powder at the FBI explosive laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.
The Justice Department said Holzer displayed a copy of Adolf Hitler's manifesto, "Mein Kampf," during his interaction with undercover FBI agents and told them "this is a move for our race."
The FBI arrested him soon afterward and took him to a local police station, where he admitted to planning to blow up the synagogue, the complaint said.
Following his guilty plea on Thursday, Holzer is set to be sentenced on January 20, 2021.
The Justice Department says he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the hate crime charge and 20 years for the explosives charge, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release.
"The defendant attempted to bomb the Temple Emanuel Synagogue to drive people of Jewish faith out of his community," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. "Violence motivated by religious intolerance strikes at the heart of a free society, and the Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these violent acts of hate."