A US Army veteran from Florida was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for attempting to bomb a Florida Veterans Affairs hospital using an improvised explosive device (IED).
Mark Edward Allen (61) from St Petersburg, Florida, had pleaded guilty in federal court on September 23, 2019, to the attempted destruction of United States government property using a home-made explosive device.
Hoax followed by the real deal
Court records stated that Allen had placed a hoax explosive at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Bay Pines, near St Petersburg on May 6, 2019. Following this, the army veteran placed a real explosive device at the same hospital.
When the device was found, law enforcement agencies were alerted and they responded immediately. A bomb squad that arrived at the site studied the device and determined that it consisted of a 9-volt battery, electrical wires, an improvised initiator, explosive powder, and a switch.
They diffused the device and ensured its safe neutralization. Allen, sporting an army baseball hat, a blue shirt, black shoes, and a long grey beard, was captured on the video surveillance of the hospital, and a convenience store across the street while leaving the hospital premises.
Call from wife led to his arrest
Nearly two days after placing the IED at the VA hospital, law enforcement authorities received a call from a concerned caller who was Allen's frightened wife as she reported that she found an explosive device in their home. She had moved the device from her home to a friend's house in the trunk of her car, and left it in the trunk as she called the authorities.
Technicians from the bomb squad, who had responded to the alert, used an X-ray machine to determine the composition of the IED and neutralized it. The design of the bomb led the FBI to believe that the previously discovered device came from the same source.
When presented with a still from the surveillance footage, Allen's wife positively identified him. Following this, Allen was arrested on June 1, 2019. During the search of Allen's home by the FBI Tampa Joint Terrorism Task Force, seven more IED's in various stages of completion were found. Each of these devices had the potential to cause grievous harm to human life and property the authorities said.
Arrested and sentenced, FBI appreciates wife's action
After his arrest, Allen appeared in court after being charged with the possession of unregistered explosives, as the devices were not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record according to law.
Michael F McPherson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Tampa Division, thanked Allen's wife for heeding to FBI's continued appeal to the public, asking them to report anything untoward catching their attention. "We are grateful for the individual who came forward with the information leading us to Mr Allen. Their action helped save lives," he said, in a statement.