SCRANTON – A federal grand jury handed down a six-count indictment against a former Wilkes-Barre man Tuesday on charges he tried to conspire with al-Qaida to blow up gas pipelines in Alaska, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Marino.
Michael Curtis Reynolds, 47, was arrested in December 2005 at a rest stop along Interstate 15 in Idaho; he thought he was picking up a $40,000 payment from al-Qaida agents.
The indictment charges Reynolds with two counts of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, one count of soliciting to commit a crime of violence, one count of distributing information through the Internet regarding explosive devices and two counts of illegal possession of hand grenades.
Reynolds, a former resident of 346 Scott St. in Wilkes-Barre, has been held without bail since Dec. 5 on a weapons charge. Prosecutors say the most recent charges against him stem from an elaborate FBI sting operation that began in an Internet chat room called OBLcrew—Osama bin Laden Crew.
Using the moniker “Fritz Mueller,” Reynolds allegedly used the Web site to solicit help from someone he thought would be able to aid him in a plot to blow up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
In fact, Reynolds was chatting online with Shannen Rossmiller, 36, a judge in Conrad, Mont., who was working for the FBI.
The indictment alleges Reynolds sought to enlist separate al-Qaida “units” to carry out various terrorist acts with the goal of forcing the U.S. government to bring troops back from overseas. Toward that end, Reynolds traveled to the Thunderbird Hotel in Pocatello, Idaho, near where he thought he would be picking up a $40,000 payment from an al-Qaida operative. He was arrested at a rendezvous point about 25 miles from the hotel.
According to prosecutors, Reynolds tried to disavow any intent to conspire with al-Qaida when he was arrested and questioned by FBI agents. Authorities have said Reynolds told them that he was a patriot and was trying to expose an al-Qaida cell inside the United States.
But authorities said Reynolds’ letters, computer drawings and e-mails show in great detail his plot to detonate trucks filled with propane along the Alaskan pipeline, and plans to blow up a section of a natural-gas pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast through Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York City.
If convicted of all the charges, Reynolds faces a maximum of 80 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million. He is jailed in the Lackawanna County Prison.