Two of three men arrested in Scranton last month on ethnic intimidation charges are members of a statewide white supremacist group that has recently established a local chapter, according to extremist group watchdogs.
A hate group expert at the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that focuses on domestic extremist groups and advises law enforcement agencies, said Keith Carney, 21, Feasterville, and Steve Smith, 31, West Chester, are members of the Keystone State Skinheads.
The ADL said it has been monitoring Mr. Carney for almost three years.
The two men are key players in KSS and members of a racist skinhead community that extends from New Jersey into Philadelphia and Harrisburg, according to an ADL expert who has tracked hate groups in the Northeast for six years.
As a matter of policy, ADL officials do not release their names for fear of reprisals.
So far, the only indications of a KSS presence in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area are an e-mail address and the arrests of Mr. Carney and Mr. Smith -- reasons for concern that KSS is trying to make inroads in the region, according to experts.
Mr. Carney and Mr. Smith, along with Steve Monteforte, 33, 408 Delaware Ave., West Pittston, were arrested after they yelled racial slurs at Antoni Williams, 26, a black man from Scranton, and threw a brick at him on March 23, police reports said.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola said his office is looking into a possible hate crimes prosecution that might rise to the federal level, where the penalties are harsher.
Experts, however, say groups have previously tried to recruit here.
"It's significc12.2,19,9,10.5;cant that they're branching out into Lackawanna and Luzerne County," the ADL official said about KSS. "A lot of these groups feel the area is a really good feeding ground because it's such a white area."
Ironically, hate groups have not made inroads here because of the area's aversion to outside influences, the ADL official said.
According to the latest census, Lackawanna County is 96.7 percent white.
Phone calls to a KSS Philadelphia-area "hot line" number and messages to an e-mail address posted on the group's Web site were not immediately returned.
Hate group activity has been inconsistent in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region, said Floyd Cochran of Renovo, an independent hate-group watcher who educates young people about the dangers of such groups. Since the 1970s, groups like the National Alliance, Ku Klux Klan and United Fascist Party have held rallies or distributed literature but have received little support, said Mr. Cochran, a former spokesman for the racist Aryan Nation.
But Mr. Cochran described KSS as "very aggressive."
"Are they growing into a mass movement and then taking over Scranton? No," Mr. Cochran said. "But can they engage in criminal activity and recruit young kids? Yes."
KSS first came to the attention of ADL and other experts like Mr. Cochran and Ann Van Dyke, who works with the state's Human Relations Commission as a specialist on organized hate groups, around 2001 when the group set up shop in Harrisburg.
KSS apparently established a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton presence about six months ago, the ADL expert said. KSS also has chapters in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Altoona and Greensburg/Pittsburgh with post office box addresses.
In December 2001, Mr. Carney was arrested in Philadelphia for posting stickers for the National Alliance, a white supremacist group, on the city's Vietnam war memorial, according to the officials at the Philadelphia Probation Office. He was charged with institutional vandalism, criminal mischief and criminal conspiracy and released on reported probation.
Probation officials said Mr. Carney has completed only 42 of 100 hours of community service and has not paid $400 in court and restitution fees.
According to the ADL expert, Mr. Carney is the most vocal of the KSS and spends most of his time in Browns Mills, N.J., Philadelphia and Harrisburg. He is also affiliated with the Eastern Hammerskins, one of the oldest and largest skinhead groups in the country, and is a former member of the National Alliance, Mr. Carney said.
The police report indicated Mr. Carney was born in Martinez, Calif., and is a carpenter. The report listed the number of tattoos on Mr. Carney as "numerous."
Police said Mr. Smith would not provide information about his employment or education. He has four tattoos.
Mr. Monteforte, according to the police report, attended Pittston Area High School. He is married and unemployed. The number of tattoos on Mr. Monteforte were listed as "many."