Before joining racist groups, Kreis dropped out of a Newark, New Jersey high school. It was during his high school days that he became interested and active in the White Power Movement. He served in the U.S. Navy for nine months, but was discharged early "based on a determination that he was not suited for military service." He then spent 13 years as a member of the KKK eventually becoming a leader. He joined the Posse Comitatus in the late 1980s.
In 1994 and 1995 Kreis and his two daughters appeared on The Jerry Springer Show. On one episode show host Jerry Springer kicked Kreis off his show for making threats and for suggesting that Springer's mother was a lampshade in the trunk of Kreis' car.
In 1999 Kreis joined the Aryan Nations. After the death of Aryan Nations leader Richard Girnt Butler, in a power struggle, Kreis assumed leadership positions within the Aryan Nations, which caused a split within the organization.
Kreis was known locally for harassing neighbors and townspeople with whom he disagreed. Police lodged numerous charges against him, but he was never convicted of any of them. After a divorce from his first wife, he was barred from contacting her.
In 2005 he received media attention by seeking an Aryan Nations-Al-Qaeda alliance. CNN reported that "So while August Kreis may be calling, there is no sign that al Qaeda is listening." His statements raised federal concerns about violations of the law which caused the government to look closely at his activities and finances. The federal government concluded that he had no link with any terrorist organization. The government, however, in the process discovered “substantial unreported funds” going into his bank accounts with more than $33,000 in unreported income in 2005.
Although he only spent a short time in the Navy, because he served during wartime Kreis received an “improved pension” based on financial need, which is adjusted based on income. In 2009, he moved from Potter County, Pennsylvania to Lexington, South Carolina, near Columbia, South Carolina.
In June 2011, Kreis was arrested in Obion County, Tennessee on "felony charges for filing fraudulent statements in an effort to obtain veterans benefits." According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, "The indictment alleges that Kreis provided false information about whether he had any income in reports that he submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs." He had refused to surrender when the charges were filed. He was held in a federal detention center.
In August 2011, he pleaded guilty to lying to Veterans Administration officials in order to get pension money which he was not entitled to receive, and he faced a possible sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. In December 2011, he was sentenced to six months in jail. Helen served six months of home arrest followed by two years of probation and was required to pay back the nearly $193,000 of improperly received benefits.
In early 2012, he quit the Aryan Nations while in prison, passing leadership of the organization to Drew Bostwick.
On February 19, 2014, Kreis was arrested on six counts of sexual abuse of children in Richland County, South Carolina.
On November 5, 2015, a Lexington County, South Carolina judge sentenced Kreis to 50 years in prison for child molestation. After a three-day trial, a Lexington County jury found Kreis, age 61, guilty of one count of criminal sexual conduct involving a minor child and two counts of committing lewd acts on a child. Kreis was sentenced to serve two 15-year sentences and one 20-year sentence, all to run consecutively. During his sentencing, he held up a sign urging people to vote for Donald Trump for president. This prompted the attorney for Kreis to ask for a mistrial, but the judge rejected the request and instead instructed the jury to focus on the evidence