Marine Vet Who Was Allegedly Part of Neo-Nazi Group That Called for Mass Murder Arrested on Gun Charges

hand-drawn swastika is seen on the front of Union Station near the Capitol in Washington
A hand-drawn swastika is seen on the front of Union Station near the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A Marine veteran is in federal custody and facing several gun charges after he allegedly solicited an unnamed police officer as a strawman buyer for an assault rifle and pistol.

That effort came while the veteran was still serving, with court records also alleging that the Marine was a leading member of a neo-Nazi group known as "Rapekrieg" whose idealogy focused on the conviction that rape would be "an extremely effective tool against our many foes."

Matthew Belanger was arrested June 10 in New York on three charges stemming from purchases of a PTR-91 .308 assault rifle in June 2019 and a Luger pistol in May 2020.

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The case comes as lawmakers -- largely Republicans -- have pushed back on measures aimed at boosting the Pentagon's efforts to investigate extremism in the ranks. Many of those measures came after the Jan. 6 insurrection and the revelation that many veterans and some active-duty service members were participants in the mob.

According to prosecutors, one of Rapekrieg's members, referred to as a witness in court documents, said that the group "conducted training together approximately once per year since 2017 with real firearms."

"Rapekrieg members have purchased uniforms, including black body armor with level-3 plates, military helmets, green utility uniforms, and a skull facemask," the witness told investigators. Level 3 body armor is built to stop rounds fired by most rifles that law enforcement and military personnel carry.

The group, including Belanger, discussed "shooting up" a synagogue in the Long Island area of New York -- going so far as to surveil the building -- "but eventually decided that burning it down at night using Molotov cocktails was a better plan," the witness told investigators. This all happened before Belanger joined the Marines, the documents say.

According to the Marine Corps, Belanger joined the service in August 2018 and was designated as a "Motor Vehicle Operator."

According to the Corps, there is now "a multi-layered, policy-based approach to screening new and potential Marines for disqualifying personal traits" that includes several interviews, tattoo screenings and background checks. Belanger is also not the only example of an alleged active extremist going on to join the military. In November 2021, federal officials announced that a 19-year old man was able to enlist and ship off to Air Force basic training after allegedly participating in the Jan. 6 riot. Although designed to prevent future enlistments, these measures are far from perfect. Many of the processes now in place rely on either honest self-reporting or reporting by others.

Joining the Marines did little to stop or slow Belanger's involvement with Rapekrieg.

He spent most of his military career at Marine Corps Base Hawaii assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, arriving there in October 2019. By December 2019, a confidential source told the FBI's New York office "that as a member of the USMC, [Belanger] has made many statements in the Rapekrieg group chat regarding his military service."

The court documents hint that others with military experience may be involved in the case.

In February 2020, Belanger showed up unannounced and dressed in tactical gear at the house of a person whom court records describe as a "witness" as well as a veteran of the Marine Corps and friend of Belanger "and other Rapekrieg members."

According to court records, Belanger told this person "that he wanted to conduct an exercise in the woods, and asked [the witness] to demonstrate tactics [they] learned while in the USMC."

"[The witness] summarized the entire event as bizarre and an exercise defendant seemed to take seriously."

According to prosecutors, Belanger had a hand in creating the group's manifesto, which was published in May 2020. The document, cited by prosecutors, not only argues in favor of rape as a weapon of fear and violence but calls for the extermination of all Jews, as well as the murder and torture of "enemies of the white race."

Prosecutors noted that, in the course of its investigation, the FBI learned that Rapekreig "had overlapping beliefs and membership with Atomwaffen Division and RapeWaffen, similar groups whose members espouse racially motivated violent extremist Neo-Nazi rhetoric and call for acts of violence to further their extremist ideology."

The FBI found chat logs "in an encrypted social media platform with others articulating neo-Nazi ideology" from this period of time where Belanger "admitted he is a Nazi."

In June 2020, the same confidential source who tipped off the FBI in 2019 showed investigators a group chat where Belanger and other Rapekreig members discussed the potential rape of an unnamed high school-aged girl, describing her as a "Good find" and "Could possibly get her pretty easy rn," as well as sharing pictures of her in high school and at a music recital.

Eventually, the Marine Corps became involved with the investigation into Belanger and, in October 2020, the service signed off on a joint search with the FBI of the barracks where Belanger lived. There, according to court documents, investigators seized a laptop and two cell phones.

"A digital evidence review was completed on all three devices belonging to Belanger revealing approximately 1,950 images, videos and documents related to white power groups, Nazi literature, brutality towards the Jewish community, brutality towards women, rape, mass murderers, firearms, body armor, instructional documents relating to building explosives and/or illegal firearms, violent uncensored executions and/or rape, and communications related to illegally obtained firearms," several court documents explained.

In May 2021, the Marine Corps discharged Belanger under Other Than Honorable conditions for Misconduct (Serious Offense), according to prosecutors. The court documents note that the Corps specifically noted Belanger's "dissident/extremist activity" as the cause. "According to commercial databases, upon discharge from the USMC on May 10, 2021, Belanger returned to his relative's home in Selden, New York," the court documents added.

According to the records provided to by the Marine Corps, Belanger never deployed and earned only the National Defense Service medal and Global War on Terrorism Service medal -- medals that almost every active-duty service member is awarded. He left the Corps as a lance corporal.

The Marine Corps, in a statement to that did not directly respond to questions about Belanger's case, stressed that "the Marine Corps is clear on this: There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps."

"Our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background," the statement added.

Meanwhile, as the annual defense policy bill made its way through Congress, some lawmakers used the opportunity to try and stop the investigation into extremists in the military's ranks.

One amendment to the House version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act calls for the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense to produce a report that looks at how much white supremacist or neo-Nazi activity is going on in the military and how the Pentagon plans to address it. The amendment passed with every single House Republican voting against it.

In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee issued a report on the policy bill that called Pentagon efforts to root out extremism "an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately." Because the language is in the report, not the bill itself, it would not carry the weight of law if it survives House-Senate negotiations on a final version.

"The committee believes that the vast majority of servicemembers serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform," the language said. has reported on a number of occasions where veterans and service members have been arrested for extremist activity. Experts on the matter have also repeatedly noted that, while service members -- active and discharged -- do not necessarily join extremist groups at greater rates than civilians, they frequently make an outsized impact when they do.

Belanger's lawyer, Leighton Lee, argued in a filing that the now-discharged Marine was not a flight risk, citing the fact that "he had been fully aware that he was a target of an investigation" since his barracks were searched almost two years ago. However, the judge hearing his case in Hawaii disagreed and, in a hearing July 25, sent Belanger to federal custody.

Jury selection for his trial is set to begin on Sept. 26, 2022, according to court records.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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