PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Fred Arena, 41, of Salem, New Jersey was arrested this morning and charged by Indictment with making false statements to government agents. The Indictment alleges that the defendant, who is an employee at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and as such is required to obtain a security clearance, lied to obtain the clearance. He also subsequently lied to federal investigators who asked him about his answers to questions on the security clearance paperwork.
According to the Indictment, on January 10, 2019, Arena completed the standard Form SF-86 to obtain a security clearance for his employment. On that form, he was required to disclose whether he had ever been a member of an organization that used, or advocated the use of, force or violence to prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights. He falsely answered that he had not. In fact, Arena was an avowed member of Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that fits that description. On the same application, Arena was asked whether he had property repossessed within the past seven years. He falsely answered that he had not. In fact, Arena had previously defaulted on a car loan, and his car was repossessed within the seven year window.
“Lying on federal security clearance forms and to government agents will land you in big trouble,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Further, the nature of the defendant’s alleged lies – attempting to conceal his affiliation with a white supremacist group in order to obtain federal employment – is extremely disturbing. I want to thank all of our law enforcement partners in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for their excellent work on this investigation.”
“Members of groups that sponsor hate and bias-motivated violence have no place in government employment,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito. “Knowing this, the defendant in this case, a New Jersey resident, lied to conceal his membership in a white supremacist organization. We are proud to join our colleagues from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in prosecuting him for those lies.”
“Membership in a group espousing extremist ideology is not itself illegal — but lying to the FBI is,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “If the people we interview feel they can deceive us with impunity, critical investigations will be compromised, threatening the very integrity of the justice system. Arena lied about his history in order to obtain a security clearance he should not have had, and he lied to federal agents questioning him. These charges are the consequences of his actions.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, and a $1,250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Joseph LaBar and Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Martha Nye.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.