A Texas boat repairman has been arrested and charged by federal authorities for attempting to purchase dynamite, grenades and wireless transmitters with an intent to burn someone’s vehicle and apartment “to the ground.”
Federal authorities launched an undercover operation last month to monitor 50-year-old Cary Lee Ogborn, who they believed accessed an underground marketplace for illegal goods and tried to “transport explosives for the purpose of injury or destruction of property,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
Ogborn, who had his initial court appearance on Monday, is due back Wednesday for his probable cause and detention hearing, according to news reports.
“With terrorism, you don’t want to be reactive,” FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap told the Houston Chronicle. “Our goal is to detect and deter events before they occur. An effective way to do this is through an undercover operation.”
Federal prosecutors allege that starting in late August, online user “boatmanstv” went into an underground marketplace called AlphaBay, which uses onion routing, or TOR, to conceal users’ IP addresses, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
The user, who authorities believe was Ogborn, began communicating with an undercover FBI agent he apparently thought was an online explosives dealer.
The user wrote that he wanted to buy a detonator to blow up a five-gallon drum of gasoline.
“Dont need big explosion,” he wrote Aug. 27, according to court records, “just need to make sure building 20 ft x 40 ft made of wood burns to the ground.”
That same day, he explained that he was planning to put explosives under a structure being used as someone’s apartment and detonate it from a distance.
“The building like shed or storage, so yes like a house of wood,” he wrote, according to court records. “I guess I could use 1/4 stick TNT and gas to make sure it burns, or diesel fuel? I may use pressure sprayer to wet down the outside of the building right before I trigger it to help the burn. Dont know exactly whats inside but person using for apartment.
“Person will not be there when set off. Dont want to kill, just send message.”
Then at one point, “boatmanstv” inquired about a grenade, documents show.
“The idea we have for this person is, while he sleeping we put grenade in back of truck and run to our car 20 to 30 meters away, then the truck blow up, he heres [sic] truck blow up and come outside while he outside we blow up house,” he wrote Sept 14. “Tell me about the grenade please. How far do we need to be away? What postal carrier for this package?”
Federal authorities linked Ogborn to a marine repair shop in Houston, where a sign reads, “Cary’s Mobile Marine Services! Home Of Your Mobile Home DR,” according to the court documents. Neighbors said Ogborn lives and works at that location.
Shawn Weiss, who has a business next door, said he never noticed “anything funny about the guy.”
“He’s always open,” Weiss told NBC affiliate KPRC. “It’s always open, the shop door was always open.”
However, another nearby business owner, Charles Blair, said Ogborn has always given him “the creeps.”
“Had no earthly idea the guy was even capable,” Blair told CBS affiliate KHOU. “Something tells me sometimes to stay away from somebody, and it did, it did 100 percent.”
It’s still unclear who Ogborn’s intended victim was and what kind of relationship they had.
Earlier this month, the FBI agent sent a message to an email address provided by “boatmanstv,” telling him that the equipment would be sent concealed inside a toy.
“We make it easy to initiate like we say. All wire connected you just add 2 battery inside car alarm and put detonator inside hole in dynamite,” it read, according to court documents. “When ready to detonate it just you push car alarm button from key it initiate.”
Prosecutors said Ogborn agreed to pay $600 for the explosives.
The undercover investigation revealed that “boatmanstv” had previously placed 32 orders, totaling more than $15,000 in Bitcoin, on that underground marketplace.
Prosecutors said Ogborn picked up a package Friday that he believed contained the explosives and took it back to the boat repair shop. He was arrested for “attempting to transport explosives with the intent that those explosives be used to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or to damage or destroy a vehicle or building,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
He appeared Monday in federal court in a wheelchair, complaining that he was injured, but then walked out of the courthouse, Alfredo Perez, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal Service, told the Houston Chronicle.
The newspaper reported that, over the years, Ogborn has been in legal trouble for drug possession, driving with a suspended license, auto theft, committing insurance fraud and “possessing illegal metal knuckles.”
If convicted in the most recent crime, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.