Michigan man had two tons of explosives: prosecutors

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 27, 2011 2:53 PM
Michigan man had two tons of explosives: prosecutors

(Reuters) - A Michigan man has been ordered held without bond after federal agents recovered more than 4,100 pounds of explosives, 2,000 feet of detonating cord and dozens of blasting caps at three Upper Peninsula locations.

A U.S. magistrate judge in Marquette, Michigan, ordered John Francis Lechner, 64, held without bond on Monday for possession of the explosives, recovered last week.

The explosives appeared to be a combination of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, the complaint states. There were 83 bags that weighed about 50 pounds each, several clearly labeled as manufactured by companies in Iowa and Ohio.

Lechner was facing state charges when he asked a man who turned out to be a Chippewa County Sheriff's Office informant to help him move explosives and other materials from his house in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, the federal complaint states.

The informant agreed to help Lechner move the explosives, but called the sheriff's office and wore digital recorders when they shifted the bags to a town 11 miles south, ATF Special Agent Timothy DeClaire said in a federal complaint.

The audio recording reflected that the informant had asked Lechner what he planned to do with the explosives, and he replied, "when the government gets taken over, we will be mercenaries," DeClaire said in the complaint.

Lechner and the informant used the informant's truck and horse trailer to move the explosives. Agents then recovered the explosives from the new location and recovered materials from his house and his mother's house on searches the next day.

Authorities recovered 2,000 feet of detonating cord, explosive boosters and numerous blasting caps from Lechner's mother's house and up to 48 blasting caps from his house.

The explosives have been stored temporarily at the Chippewa County Sheriff's Office. Federal prosecutors have asked the court for permission to destroy the explosives, calling storage impractical and unsafe.

The bags have deteriorated because of age and improper storage and state law enforcement agencies have no magazine where they could be stored properly, prosecutors said.

An attorney listed as representing Lechner could not be reached immediately for comment.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis)