Joseph Raymond Berger, 67, and Joseph Paul Berger, 32, of Bethlehem, PA, were arrested and charged by indictment with multiple firearms offenses including possessing machine guns, possessing non-registered firearms, and possessing non-registered silencers.
The indictment alleges that the defendants illegally possessed 13 fully automatic machine guns and 12 firearms silencers, but disturbing conjecture from the Alt-Right Armory podcast appears to make it likely that the weapons were to be used for terroristic violence.
The 32-year-old Navy veteran and certified armorer who lives with his parents is being held in federal custody as he awaits trial on charges of illegal gun possession.
According to court documents, law enforcement agents with Customs and Border Protection intercepted three firearms silencers that were illegally imported into the United States in packages addressed to the defendants at their shared residence.
Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the home and recovered from the basement the 12 firearms suppressors/silencers and 13 fully automatic machine guns that are listed in the Indictment.
The machine guns included 11 rifles and two submachine guns.
According to court documents, investigators also uncovered evidence that the firearms found in the Berger home were originally sold and purchased as semi-automatic firearms, which were then manually converted into unregistered, fully automatic machine guns.
“The defendants allegedly possessed a stockpile of unregistered fully-automatic machine guns and silencers in violation of the National Firearms Act,” said United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “These weapons are extremely dangerous, which is why there are laws regulating their possession. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to remove dangerous weapons from our District.”
“As the indictment alleges, possession of illegal firearms like these, threatens the safety of the general public, especially when in the wrong hands,” said Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “I would like to thank our local, state and federal partners for their contributions in this investigation.”
“This father-and-son duo possessed a small artillery of firearms in their home, including more than a dozen machine guns and silencers. This type of fire-power is incredibly dangerous if in the wrong hands,” said William S. Walker, acting special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, a $270,000 fine, and a $300 special assessment.
After noting on the first episode of his Alt-Right Armory podcast that “a white man with a rifle can be very dangerous to the system indeed,” Joseph Paul Berger brought up the case of Eric Frein. Recounting how the Pennsylvania survivalist ambushed and killed a police officer in 2014, hoping to start a revolution, Berger mused about the destruction that could be done by a larger group.
“Imagine if there were 10 Eric Freins,” Berger said. “Twenty. A hundred. A thousand.”
On the “Alt-Right Armory” podcast, Berger used the nickname “GlockDoctor1488” — the numbers an apparent reference to what the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a white supremacist code.
The show discussed guns and gun rights and was interwoven with extremist and conspiracy-theory rhetoric, along with the casual use of racial, homophobic and antisemitic slurs.
The two hosts espoused anti-immigrant views, spoke favorably of the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and demanded the fulfillment of then-President Donald Trump’s promises for a wall along the southern border.
Berger also railed against Democrats, gun-control legislation and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is the subject of persistent right-wing and antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Berger said Frein, the man convicted of killing Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, “ultimately went after the small fish.” Berger himself fantasized during the podcast about bigger targets: legislators, lobbyists and left-wing billionaires.
“When you put people under stress and when the system is rigged against them, eventually they will pop off, which is why leftists don’t want people armed to begin with,” Berger said. “They don’t want to give them the means in which to most effectively throw off the chains of left-wing oppression.”