Retired miner John Allen sentenced after FBI discovers pipe bombs


A retired miner accused of leaving pipe bombs and threatening letters in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison on Wednesday in a case that raised fears of a domestic terror attack imminent.

John Douglas Allen, 76, of Whittemore was sentenced to 75 months by US District Judge Thomas Ludington more than a year after his arrest following an FBI investigation involving makeshift bombs, code letters and surveillance cameras. The unique nature of the crimes has coincided with an increased focus by federal agents on domestic violent extremism and high-profile crimes, including the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Prosecutors allege Allen planted cell tower bombs because he was upset that telecommunications companies were broadcasting pornography, swearing and “immoral content.”

Allen pleaded guilty in August to extortion by excessive use of force, violence or fear and attempted destruction of a building used in interstate commerce – charges that could have landed him in prison until at 20 years. Prosecutors have requested a nine-year sentence.

“The danger of the crimes Allen committed cannot be overstated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Buckley wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “He planted not one, but two fully functional pipe bombs containing shrapnel, in two separate locations. These pipe bombs could have claimed lives, caused horrific bodily injury and damaged cellphone stores.”

The FBI provides an image of one of the bombs recovered during the investigation.

After:Retired miner to plead guilty after FBI finds pipe bombs near Michigan stores

The bombs, discovered in September 2021 in cellphone stores in Cheboygan and Sault Ste. Marie, were stored in boxes and contained handcuffs bearing either the nickname “Handcuff Johnny” or the initials “HJ”. FBI investigators analyzed the bombs, which consisted of a metal pipe with two metal end caps containing main charges of explosive powder. Metal spheres and studs were found in each device.

The first of several letters was found on August 25, 2021, inside a polka dot envelope, packed in a sealed zip lock bag near a telecommunications tower in Saint-Ignace, north of the Mackinac Bridge .

The letter, which appeared to have been tied to a nearby fence but fell to the ground, contained a threat and extortion demand on AT&T, Verizon and other vendors.

A surveillance camera inside a Verizon store in Cheboygan showed the suspect leaving a box outside the front door on September 15.

The next day, August 26, investigators found a second letter about 62 miles northwest of Gould City inside a polka-dotted envelope, inside a sealed zipper bag, tied at a fence. Investigators recovered the letter but did not open the bag.

That same day, nearly four o’clock and 210 miles west, investigators learned that a third letter had been found in a polka-dotted envelope inside a sealed zipper bag and attached to a fence in Ontonagon. The content of the letter seemed to be identical to the letter from St. Ignatius.

The letters were sent by the “Coalition for Moral Telecommunication (CMT)” and addressed to several companies, including AT&T and Verizon.

The letters claimed that CMT had nearly 30 members who were “ready to travel across this country and begin to destroy (sic) the communication from the downtown tower” unless several requests were followed, according to a FBI affidavit filed in federal court.

The demands included a payment of $5 million and that the telecommunications companies stop distributing “immoral content”, including pornography, swearing and “all kinds of indecent communications”.

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