(CBS/AP) - A white supremacist gang in Arkansas is accused of violent attempts to silence witnesses to the group's meth-trafficking, including permanently disfiguring a person's face with a hot knife. A new round of indictments in the case were unsealed Tuesday.
They name 54 members of the New Aryan Empire -- a white supremacist organization that began as a prison gang in the 1990s and now engages in narcotics trafficking, witness intimidation and acts of violence including attempted murder, kidnapping and assault, U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland said.
The group "is reprehensible in its admiration for Nazi imagery and racist views, but even more alarming are the crimes and violence perpetrated by these defendants," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki, CBS affiliate KTHV-TV reported.
The case is called "To the Dirt," which references the New Aryan Empire's rule that members remain in the group until death, KTHV-TV reported.
Indictments were originally returned in October 2017 accusing 44 members of the gang with drug and gun crimes. The latest charges name additional members and add counts for alleged involvement in violent crimes committed by the group, including kidnapping a person and attacking another with guns, bats, and knives.
Prosecutors said that during the federal and state joint investigation, agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine and seized more than 25 pounds of meth, in addition to 69 guns and $70,000 in drug proceeds.
"The violence and hatred alleged in this superseding indictment have no place in society," Hiland said while announcing the new charges northwest of Little Rock.
Hiland said charges against the organization's leaders and members had inflicted "significant damage" to the group that he said has trafficked "copious amounts of methamphetamine" in the state. He said additional charges are possible.
Officials said 35 of those charged are in custody and another 16 were previously released on bond. Three others have not been arrested.
Nicki Nicolo, defense attorney for Jeffrey L. Knox, who is identified in the indictment as one of the leaders of the gang, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. Among other things, the indictment alleges that Knox, 43, of Russellville, was part of drug sales and the attempted murder of a suspected law enforcement informant. Authorities said Knox is in federal custody.
First published on February 13, 2019