Alleged head of 1488 gang moved to Washington ahead of trial

(Official seal of U.S. Department of Justice)

The alleged leader of a white supremacist prison gang operating in Alaska is being sent out of state as he awaits trial. The government is trying to prove that a murder in Wasilla was directed by a man who’s been behind bars for more than two decades.

On Thursday in federal court, Justice Department prosecutors said the move will limit the defendant’s ability to control a criminal network they claim extends far beyond prison walls.

The appearance in federal court was nominally over the question of whether or not 42-year-old Filthy Fuhrer — formerly Timothy Lobdell — should stay in custody ahead of a federal trial for his role in a case involving murder, kidnapping, assault and racketeering. Nobody disagreed with that question. Instead, most of what lawyers actually discussed during the brief hearing was whether or not to relocate Fuhrer to a federal facility in Washington state.

Defense attorney Wayne Fricke is based in Tacoma, and told the judge he and his client will be better able to prepare for the case if he is housed nearby, rather than in Alaska. Federal prosecutors support the move because they claim Fuhrer has been able to direct violent crime from within state correctional facilities, and expect that ability to be blunted if he is kept further away. In court documents, the Justice Department alleges that as leader of the 1488 gang, Fuhrer granted permission to a subordinate to kidnap, mutilate and kill another gang member. Fuhrer has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The defendant didn’t say much during the hearing, and even if he had, reporters aren’t allowed to record inside the courtroom. But in a hearing two years ago in front of Superior Court Judge Pamela Washington, then-Timothy C. Lobdell explained why we wanted to officially make his name Filthy Fuhrer.

“I’ve had nothing but negative things attached to the name,” Fuhrer said. He mentioned an abusive home life, which turned into “a rebellious youth, drug addiction, and then 20 years of hardened prison living.”

Fuhrer told the judge he grew up in Ohio’s Amish country, working on his parents’ farm. He said his mother called him Filthy as a nickname. Attachment to the German word “Fuhrer,” he explained, stems from a religious commitment to Odinism, a small off-shoot of northern European paganism.

“It’s a pantheon of gods more native to the Germanic and Iceland and Indo-European tribes, and that’s something I’ve adopted as my religion,” Fuhrer said. “It has helped me change my life, so I wanted something indicative of how I’ve turned my life around.”

Odinism is a Modern religion that grown increasingly popular in recent years among white-supremacist groups in the U.S. and Europe, championed by violent extremists and neo-Nazis. The name 1488 is a reference to Nazi ideology, and gang members, including Filthy Fuhrer, have prominent tattoos of symbols from the Third Reich. And then there’s the word Fuhrer’s connotation with Adolf Hitler, something the judge noted.

“I understand the negativity that some people will attach to it, but I don’t believe that that is a reason to excise the entire word,” Fuhrer said, going on to explain that he looked to the word’s literal meaning of “leader.”

“I’ve tried to be a leader to anyone that has taken a darker path in life because I’ve been so far down it and turned around,” Fuhrer said. “That’s what I want to embody.”

Finding no legal basis to deny it, Judge Washington approved the name change in September of 2017. The hearing happened within weeks of when a 1488 member who had fallen out of favor was allegedly lured to Wasilla and killed, a slaying that prosecutors say Fuhrer sanctioned.

Five other alleged gang members are charged in the murder, and two more have pleaded guilty. Trial is currently scheduled to start May 28th.

Casey Grove contributed reporting to this story.