Self-described neo-Nazi pleads guilty in plot to attack historic Colorado synagogue

The 28-year-old suspect faces up to 40 years in prison.

October 15, 2020, 6:03 PM

A self-described neo-Nazi pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to federal hate crime and explosives charges for plotting to blow up an historic synagogue in Colorado last year.

Richard Holzer, 28, admitted to prosecutors that he intentionally targeted the congregants of Temple Emanuel, a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, and wanted to "get that place off the map," U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn's office said in a news release.

Undercover FBI agents foiled the plan in November 2019, before Holzer, who described himself as a Neo-Nazi and a white supremacist, could carry out his plot against the synagogue, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

"This is the most important work that we can do -- protecting our communities by stopping an attack before it occurred," Dunn said in a statement.

The attorney general's office said the details of Holzer's plea deal 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."

Signs, flowers and candles expressing love for the Jewish community stand outside the Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colo., Nov. 5, 2019.
Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, FILE

Undercover agents made contact with Holzer through a Facebook account after he was observed using social media to promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence. Prosecutors said he frequently visited Temple Emanuel to observe Jewish congregants.

During one of those visits, Holzer told an undercover agent that he wanted to do something that would send a message to the Jewish community that they weren't welcome in Pueblo, the attorney general's office said.

Prosecutors said Holzer sent an undercover agent a picture of himself holding automatic weapons and declared that he wanted to start a racial holy war.

During a meeting with undercover agents, the suspect expressed hatred of Jews and coordinated with the agents to obtain explosives.

"Holzer told the undercover agents that he wanted to 'get that place off the map,'" the attorney general's office said.

Richard Holzer was arrested for was allegedly planning to bomb a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office via Twitter

On Nov. 1, the agents met with Holzer and provided him with inert pipe bombs and other explosives, according to prosecutors.

"Before taking custody of the explosives, Holzer removed a copy of 'Mein Kampf' from his bag and told the undercover agents that 'this is a move for our race,'" the attorney general's office said.

Holzer admitted that he planned to set off the explosives hours later, but the plan was foiled when agents arrested him, the attorney general's office said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 20. Holzer faces up to a maximum of 40 years in prison for all of the charges.