PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Fred Arena, 41, of Salem, NJ, entered a plea of guilty before United States District Court Judge John R. Padova on charges of making false statements to government agents. Arena, who was an employee of a federal contractor at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and as such was required to obtain a federal 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. He was arrested and detained in October 2019, and is currently in federal custody.
On January 10, 2019, Arena completed the standard Form SF-86 to obtain a federal 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. “And the nature of Arena’s deception – attempting to conceal his affiliation with a white supremacist group in order to obtain employment with a federal contractor – is extremely disturbing. Furthermore, no employee working for the federal government in any capacity has any business being a member of a white supremacist group or espousing white supremacist views. Employees paid with American taxpayer dollars are held to the highest standards so as to ensure their commitment to serve the public in a fair, lawful manner.”
“Joining a group that espouses extremist ideology is not itself illegal — but lying to the FBI certainly is,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Arena lied about his history to obtain a security clearance he never should’ve had. He then lied to the federal agents who questioned him about it. If the people we interview think they can deceive us without consequence, vital investigations will be stymied and our justice system sorely compromised.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, the Camden County Police Department, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, 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.