Pennsylvania man arrested in Al Qaeda terror plot to blow up Alaskan and PA pipeline and refinery in New Jersey
February 14, 2006
Report: FBI names Wilkes-Barre man in alleged terror plot
PHILADELPHIA - Federal agents contend that a Wilkes-Barre man tried to work with al-Qaida in a plot to blow up the Alaska pipeline, another pipeline in Pennsylvania and a refinery in New Jersey, according to a published report.
Michael Curtis Reynolds, 47, has not officially been charged with terrorism - but a prosecutor at a hearing said that Reynolds tried to "provide material aid to al-Qaida" and that the case "involves a federal offense of terrorism," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in Sunday editions.
Reynolds has been held without bail in the Lackawanna County jail since Dec. 5 on an unrelated weapons charge.
"He was doing it as a plan to disrupt governmental function, to change the government's actions in foreign countries, and to impact on the national debate about the war," Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus Jr. said at the December hearing in Wilkes-Barre.
The Inquirer attained a copy of a federal transcript alleging that Reynolds plotted to detonate propane-filled trucks along sections of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Transcontinental Pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast, through Pennsylvania, to New Jersey and New York City.
The FBI also alleges that Reynolds targeted Standard Oil Co. in Perth Amboy, N.J., as well as the Williams Refinery in Opal, Wyo. He was arrested not far from there.
Philip Gelso, Reynolds' attorney, declined to comment. U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Heidi Havens said her office does not comment on active investigations.
As part of an FBI sting two months ago, Reynolds was drawn to a meeting with a purported al-Qaida contact about 25 miles from a hotel in Pocatello, Idaho, that was his last known address. At the meeting he expected to receive $40,000 to finance the alleged plot, authorities said.
The al-Qaida operative was actually Shannen Rossmiller, a judge from Conrad, Mont., who was working for the FBI. In a telephone interview with The Inquirer, Rossmiller confirmed her role but declined to comment further.
Reynolds was returned to Pennsylvania on one charge: possession of a grenade. The FBI then obtained search warrants for his computers and his e-mail accounts. Agents in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Pennsylvania since December have been piecing together Reynolds' background.
Government agents said that Reynolds denied trying to conspire with al-Qaida and said he was a patriot seeking to expose an al-Qaida cell inside the United States.
However, Gurganus said in court that Reynolds' e-mails tell a different story. Reynolds states in e-mails that he needed to leave the country after the planned attacks, and that he realized he could be sentenced to death as a traitor, Gurganus said.
Reynolds lived in a modest two-story house in Wilkes-Barre from July 2004 until last spring, when neighbors said he disappeared and left his elderly mother alone. His sister, who neighbors said came to the home to care for her mother and described her brother as a "mercenary," called police after discovering a grenade inside the house, police records show.
The grenade charge carries a penalty of three to seven years in federal prison.
Reynolds has a history of run-ins with the law. He was convicted in 1978 of attempted arson and menacing, officials said. He also has unrelated convictions for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and breach of the peace.
Richard Danise has bitter memories of Reynolds, his former son-in-law.
Danise, of Kunkletown, Monroe County, said Reynolds eloped with his daughter, Tammy, in December 1982. The couple later divorced, although Danise said he didn't remember when, and their three children live with their mother.
"I just washed my hands of him. I don't know where he went," Danise said. "I have bitterness. You have no idea."