Members of an Osceola County chapter of a white supremacist group were arrested over the weekend on hate crime and conspiracy charges, according to the state attorney's office.
Local directors of the American Front organization Marcus Faella, his wife, Patricia Faella, and Mark McGowan were arrested Friday. The state attorney's office describes the AF as an anti-Semitic, white supremacist organization that is known as a domestic terrorist organization.
Authorities also arrested Jennifer McGowan, 25; Diane Stevens, 28; Kent McLellan, 22 and Paul Jackson, 25, for their involvement in the AF, according to court documents.
Joshua Walden, an acquaintance of McLellan's said the 22-year-old had a strong hate for African Americans for years and that he wasn't surprised about his arrest.
"I heard him speak of certain things but not too much, he said he got secret things going on," Walden said. "He was always talking weird like that."
McLellan was convicted in 2008 of vandalizing a church and restaurant. He said he spray painted swastikas on the church because the church tried to convert him and the restaurant patrons mocked his "skinhead attire," according to reports.
The state attorney's office said each suspect was arrested on paramilitary training, which is teaching another person to make or use a firearm; attempted to shoot into an occupied dwelling and evidence of prejudices while committing offense. All are felony level offenses.
"This investigation is a result of our on-going partnership with local law enforcement and federal agencies in a concentrated effort to stamp out hate crime in our community," said Ninth Circuit State Attorney Lawson Lamar. "The Ninth Circuit State Attorney will review the investigation and will file the appropriate criminal charges."
The arrests follow an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in partnership with local law enforcement and the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. Sheriff's agencies in Osecola and Orange counties and the St. Cloud Police Department assisted in the arrests.
Authorities said more arrests are expected and more charges could be added on to existing arrests based on the seriousness of the hate crimes.