A judge in Missouri ordered several Web sites shuttered Wednesday after the state's Attorney General accused a St. Louis man -- an alleged racist and anti-Semite -- of illegally soliciting donations for Katrina relief efforts. It was the first known case of an official crackdown on Web scams taking advantage of the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Early Wednesday, Attorney General Jay Nixon filed an injunction asking the court to shut down 10 sites, all which fed to a central hub at internetdonations.org, that were asking for donations to Katrina relief. Nixon also asked that all funds collected be returned.
"Among other things, the sites were concealing the fact that none were registered as a charitable organization," said Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Attorney General Nixon.
Nixon's lawsuit also claimed that the man behind internetdonations.org -- who had recently registered several sites, among them katrinafamilies.com, kartrinafund.name, donate-kartrina.com, and katrina-donations.com -- "support[s] white supremacy and that the money raised from the consumers will be only for use to help white victims of the hurricane."
"This is a horrendous use of the victims of Hurricane Katrina to the benefit of a hate group," Nixon said at a news conference. He added that Weltner is associated with the National Alliance, which his office described as "listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the nation's most active neo-Nazi hate groups."
The National Alliance Web site currently features a large ad-style link on its home page that reads "Katrina: The Aftermath / Help White Victims."
Weltner also operates jewwatch.com, an anti-Semitic site that was in the news last year when Google listed it as the top-ranked hit on searches using the word "jew." The site is now ranked No. 2, behind an entry in Wikpedia.
"This was political motivated," said Weltner, contacted at his home in St. Louis. "They just want to stomp on people based on their political views. This whole thing is a misunderstanding. Every penny was going to tax-exempt charities like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army."
Weltner denied any connection with the National Alliance, and said he was not a racist or anti-Semite.
"I'm a racial egalitarian. Jewwatch.com is absolutely not an anti-Semitic site. It's actually a library of information about the history of Jews that's been hidden from people," Weltner said. "It's a clipping library, I'm a librarian."
Jewwatch.com's front page features a photo of Lenin posed facing a photo of Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and collects links under such subject headings as "Jewish Controlled Press" and "Jewish Zionist-Soviet Anti-American Spies."
"The Bolsheviks were basically Russian Jews in exile living in New York," claimed Weltner during the interview.
The donation-collecting sites, as well as the internetdonations.org hub, are now offline. On Wednesday afternoon St. Louis Circuit Judge Julian Bush issued a temporary restraining order requiring Weltner to stop seeking contributions.
Weltner wasn't even sure who took down his sites. "I didn't take them down. Someone else may have done it."
"I may contest some of [the lawsuit]," said Weltner, "but I don't intend to do battle with the state of Missouri. I could have stood on the corner with a cup and collected money and there wouldn't have been any problem, but now I've been slandered and accused of collecting money for racist groups."
As far as he knew, Weltner said, he had not managed to collect any monies before the sites were shut down. "But if I had, I've said I would have written a check to the Attorney General.
"I just tried to help people," he said.