Northern Michigan man sentenced for leaving pipe bombs at cell phone stores as part of $5 million extortion plot

BAY CITY, Mich. (WLUC) – A Whittemore man was convicted on Wednesday of crimes related to a $5 million racketeering scheme in which the defendant planted shrapnel-filled pipe bombs outside of cellphone shops in Sault Ste Marie and Cheboygan.

Michigan’s Eastern District Attorney, Dawn N. Ison, and Michigan’s Western District Attorney, Mark Totten, announced that 76-year-old John Douglas Allen has been sentenced to 75 months in prison on two separate counts related to the conspiracy became.

Ison and Totten echoed the announcement made by Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

“Today’s verdict demonstrates the seriousness of the defendant’s egregious conduct in risking the lives of innocent citizens to extort money from corporations,” said James A. Tarasca, the FBI’s Michigan Special Counsel. “This coordinated effort by local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies across Michigan has helped protect communities from further harassment and sends a clear message that crime doesn’t pay.”

Allen was tried before United States District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City, Michigan. Allen had pleaded guilty to racketeering by unlawful use of force, violence and fear and two counts of attempted demolition of a building with an explosive device in July.

According to court records, Allen admitted that around 7:36 p.m. on September 15, 2021, he placed a United States Postal Service (USPS) box with black tape on it and a wire coming out in front of an AT&T store in Sault Ste. Marie. Later that evening, Allen turned out another USPS box with black tape on it and a cord coming out outside of a Verizon store in Cheboygan, Michigan.

The two devices were examined by the FBI Laboratory’s Explosives Division, who concluded they were improvised explosive devices (IEDs), also commonly referred to as pipe bombs. Both pipe bombs contained shrapnel. In addition, US$5 million in threatening letters were posted on cell towers in the area and sent to the telecommunications companies. Based on video footage captured by the cellphone shops and other nearby businesses, as well as an extensive law enforcement investigation, agents were able to determine that Allen was the person who left the packages outside the stores.

“Allen’s actions in planting pipe bombs in front of commercial establishments not only endangered the lives of innocent people, but also our first responders and the bomb technicians who made those devices safe,” said US Attorney Mark Totten. “My office will continue to aggressively prosecute individuals for crimes like this that endanger our first responders and communities.”

Allen claimed he was motivated by what he saw as immoral content circulating on the internet and mobile phones.

In addition, Allen pleaded guilty to placing letters threatening telecom providers in cell towers in the Upper Peninsula.

“This defendant tried to use terror, threats and bombs to scare ordinary people going about their business,” said US Attorney Ison. “We will not tolerate individuals who fearfully try to line their own pockets.”

This case was handled by special agents, intelligence analysts, soldiers, deputies and officers from the FBI, Michigan State Police, Cheboygan County Sheriff’s Office, Cheboygan Police Department, Sault Ste. Marie Police Department, Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Police, the US Coast Guard’s investigative service, the US Border Patrol and ATF.

Assistant US Attorneys J. Michael Buckley, Jerome Gorgon, Christopher O’Connor and Theodore Greeley are prosecuting the case in their respective districts.

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