A New Jersey man who lied while seeking a federal security clearance was sentenced last week to six months in prison and an additional two years of probation.
Fred Arena, 42, was applying for the security clearance and did not disclose his ties to Vanguard America, a white supremacist group. When federal agents alter asked him about the ties, he lied, U.S. attorney for the Eastern Pennsylvania District William M. McSwain said.
Arena pleaded guilty in December to lying to federal authorities and was sentenced to six months in prison. He had already served four months in custody after getting arrested in October, so he will only serve another two months behind bars. When he gets out, he will be on probation for two years, NJ.com reported.
“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 in order to prevent him from engaging in new criminal behavior that may violate the civil rights of others and endanger the public,” McSwain said.
Arena had been applying for the security clearance while working for a federal contractor at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.
“His membership in Vanguard America and his participation in their activities were demonstrated by his many admissions and photos on social media, including events surrounding the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia,” McSwain’s office said in a statement. He added that no federal employee “has any business being a member of a white supremacist group or espousing white supremacist views.”
NJ.com reported that Arena was “very active online for the white supremacist group, adopting the name of a Confederate colonel, posting with guns, threatening people and sharing racist memes.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Arena defending himself during a hearing in the city.
“I’m not such a monster,” Arena said at a hearing in Philadelphia. “I’m really not. …. I got a little too involved in politics — this whole left-right thing, and I did some stupid things.”
Arena said he was not a threat, but U.S. District Judge John R. Padova (a George H. W. Bush appointee) said that Arena’s social media posts – which included slurs against Muslims and posts suggesting women who date outside their own race should be hanged – suggested otherwise.
“One could look at that and say, ‘This guy was up to no good,'” Padova said. “‘He didn’t just want a job, he was up to something.'”
Arena’s attorney, Brian J. Zeiger, claimed his client was being punished for holding distasteful views instead of just for lying. He said the six-month sentence was at the upper end of the federal sentencing guidelines.
“This is the kind of case that normally a person wouldn’t get jail time for,” Zeiger said. “To give this man a far greater sentence than what other people get just because we’re so uncomfortable with this group he’s associated with really would offend justice.”