But on the morning of 24 July, Mr Rubino was driving his white Chevy van on Route 517 in Allamuchy, New Jersey, when he lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a tree, seriously injuring himself and a passenger.
When officers from the New Jersey State Police began extracting him from the wreckage, they noticed something unsettling in the van: a stockpile of assault weapons and ammunition.
Mr Rubino, of Lafayette Township in Sussex County, was charged on Tuesday in federal court in Newark with unlawful possession of a firearm, along with several drug offences.
In addition to the large collection of weapons found at his home, law enforcement officers discovered 3 kilograms of marijuana, 70 grams of methamphetamine, and boxes of bumper stickers and clothing with SS bolts — “common white supremacist and Nazi symbols,” prosecutors said.
Officers also found a document labelled with a racial epithet “containing racist material and purporting to be an instruction manual for owning a slave,” prosecutors said.
Why Mr Rubino kept such a large arsenal — a collection the police say included semi-automatic handguns, shotguns, rifles with scopes and a grenade launcher — remains unclear. But the arrest comes as the nation is already on edge after a spate of recent mass shootings, at least one of which was inspired by racist hatred, and the arrests in the past week of three men who authorities said were planning attacks.
On 3 August, a gunman opened fire in a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people; the 21-year-old suspect wrote in a manifesto before the attack that it was motivated by “the Hispanic invasion.”
Less than a day later, a man killed nine people in 32 seconds in Dayton, Ohio.
Late last week, police arrested a 20-year-old man near Youngstown, Ohio, after he threatened to shoot up a Jewish community centre. In Norwalk, Connecticut, a 22-year-old was arrested after he began collecting weapons for the purpose of committing a mass shooting, according to the police. And in Florida, a 25-year-old man was arrested after police said he sent a text message expressing a desire to “break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever.”
Although Mr Rubino’s motivation for harbouring such an arsenal remains unclear, all these arrests come as federal law enforcement officials grapple with a resurgent white supremacist threat, the rise of which some say has been aided by rhetoric from the White House and conservative media outlets. The arrests come a decade after the federal government effectively disbanded the Department of Homeland Security team that tracked domestic terrorism.
A spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in New Jersey would not say if Mr Rubino was on investigators’ radar before his car accident in July. Neither the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives nor the FBI could be reached for comment.
In New York City, there has been a significant increase in hate crimes this year, up 68 per cent from last year as of June, according to police statistics.
Prosecutors in New Jersey said the Nazi paraphernalia Mr Rubino possessed was also associated with outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Aside from the firearms, the stockpile seized from Mr Rubino’s home and car included brass knuckles, at least one high-capacity magazine, hollow-point bullets, a wooden axe handle and a baseball bat, prosecutors said. A total of 17 guns were found.
In addition to firearms charges, Mr Rubino was charged with intent to distribute methamphetamines and marijuana. Prosecutors said he carried the weapons to assist with drug trafficking.
Rubino was convicted in 1999 of writing a bad check, prosecutors said - a felony that makes his possession of any firearm illegal.
The New York Times
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies