Florida Man Sentenced after Failed Bombing Plot at Retail Stores on East Coast

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A Florida man will spend the next 40 years in federal prison after his failed plan to detonate homemade bombs inside of Target stores from Florida to New York. The scheme was plotted by Mark Barnett, 50, a registered sex offender living in Ocala. Barnett offered $10,000 to a man in exchange for placing 10 homemade bombs inside the packaging of common grocery items.

According to police, those boxes were going to be placed in 10 Target stores along the East Coast of the United States. Barnett’s motive? Money. He believed if the bombs exploded inside of the Target stores he could get rich because the companies’ stock would take a hit. Barnett believed this would allow him to make money through high-risk stock options he had already purchased. Barnett spent $16,000 on the put option and was expecting to make anywhere between $131,000 and around $400,000 if the stock price dropped. “He wanted Target stock to drop because the more the stock dropped, the more money Mark Barnett made,” said ATF Special Agent Dewane Krueger.

The plan unraveled after the man Barnett hired turned confidential source for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “Some people have got to get hurt for me to make some money,” Barnett told the confidential source, according to court records. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Ocala sentenced Barnett following his jury trial. Barnett was found guilty of attempted arson, possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act (NFA) destructive device and making an unregistered NFA destructive device. “I thought of a six-year-old girl wanting macaroni and cheese for dinner that night and going to the store shelf at Target,” Krueger said. The child would “pick up the box to try and give it to her mom and blowing up.” The confidential informant’s probation officer contacted law enforcement after Barnett asked him if he “wanted to make some easy money.” Barnett provided the informant with gloves, a mask, $280 for travel expenses and a license plate cover, according to the ATF.

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Barnett then instructed the informant to “place the boxes on shelves inside Target stores in Florida, New York and Virginia,” according to court records. “Put one in each state, I guess,” Barnett told the source. Instead of placing the bombs inside Target stores, the recruit handed the bombs over to federal agents on Feb. 13, 2017. The very next day, law enforcement orchestrated a meeting between the informant and Barnett at an Ocala Burger King. The informant used a covert recording device during the meeting.  According to court records, the source told Barnett “falsely” that he had already placed four of the bombs in “Target stores in two states immediately north of Florida,” but to “get as far north as you can go because we don’t want to make it a localized thing.”In a statement to First Coast News, Target says “Target commends the law enforcement agencies responsible for apprehending this individual.”

Barnett couldn’t do the job himself because he was currently serving probation at the time for a 1992 rape, kidnapping and theft case. He was on conditional release supervision, which required him to wear a GPS ankle monitor, until July 2023. Barnett “thought he had the right guy in the confidential source in this case, but he still threatened that source and his family” if he told anyone of the plot, Krueger said. Barnett, through his attorney, declined comment to First Coast News for this story.

“When we started this investigation we just had one individual saying another individual did this. It was a he said she said.” ATF Resident Agent in Charge Todd Okray told First Coast News. “Now, we have to transition that into developing the evidence to show what Barnett’s intent was. His intent was to cause bodily harm and possibly kill people for a profit.” The homemade bombs described in court documents as containing a battery-powered power source connected via a switch to a 1- to 1 ½-inch-wide shell and model rocket motor igniter made using parts from musical greeting cards and fireworks. The powder in the box had the chemical composition of “flash powder, black powder, and pyrotechnic stars,” according to the complaint. A rubber band would have to be removed from the outside of each device to activate it.

According to the trial brief, “once the switch had been triggered, an electrical current would flow and cause the rocket motor to ignite the explosive powders contained within the aerial shell. This would result in a violent explosion capable of causing property damage, serious injury, or death to nearby persons. The pyrotechnic stars also would continue to burn after the shell’s initial explosion, posing a significant risk of fire.” “The detonation was instantaneous. There was no time delay so whoever picked up that device would have blown up,” Krueger said.

“The potential that you could kill and maim people just to get money, I can’t even imagine what was going through his mind,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said. “This was based on Mr. Barnett wanting to make money. He thought he could negatively impact Target in a way that he would profit from that. And that was the plan. “People in the public that are seeing things and contacting law enforcement, they make the difference,” McCrary said. “So we definitely want to implore the public to continue to be vigilant and call us if you see something and we’ll take it from there.”    [Source: First Coast News]

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