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Charges filed against man who allegedly vandalized Racine synagogue

Posted at 5:24 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 18:30:57-05

RACINE — Federal investigators arrested an Oak Creek man on federal charges related to the vandalism of a Racine synagogue.

The feds say Yousef Barasneh was a part of a white supremacy group, targeting minorities across the country.

On Friday, investigators arrested 22-year-old Barasneh on federal charges of conspiracy in connection to anti-Semitic graffiti painted on Beth Israel Sinai Congregation in Racine back in September.

Congregation President Joyce Placzkowski had just arrived at her synagogue for a board meeting when she came across a disturbing sight of swastikas, anti-Semitic words and the symbol for a white supremacist group plastered on the outside of the building.

"Who in the world would think that this would happen in Racine?" she said. "I don't have any idea how people can have that kind of hate to other people. It makes no sense to me."

According to court records, Barasneh is a member of the neo-Nazi extremist group known as "The Base,” specifically the "Great Lakes cell" based in Wisconsin.

In November, federal investigators arrested 18-year-old Richard Tobin of New Jersey for "[directing] others to 'tag the sh**' out of synagogues,” first hitting a synagogue in Hancock, Michigan and then Beth Israel in Racine.

Tobin is not mentioned in the criminal complaint about Barasneh, but the details match the complaint filed against him last year.

Through encrypted messages, cell phone data, and other evidence, investigators eventually pinned down Barasneh to the vandalism at Beth Israel.

"I'm very thankful for the police and the FBI, and anyone else in law enforcement who were able to figure out who did this,” Placzkowski said.

As the case continues to unfold, Placzkowski hopes to get justice for her synagogue.

"I hope the court system can give some relief and send a message to other people who if you do this, there will be consequences,” Placzkowski said.

At the end of the year, the synagogue increased their security measures by installing cameras outside the building.

If convicted, Barasneh faces up to 10 years in prison.

According to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, preliminary numbers from their 2019 audit show a 143 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents since 2016, mostly in the Milwaukee area. They've also seen a rise in white nationalism.

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