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Iowa Man Convicted of Mailing Pipe Bombs and Threatening Letters to Investment Firms in Terror Bid to Raise Stock Prices

U.S. Attorney’s Office May 04, 2012
  • Northern District of Illinois (312) 353-5300

CHICAGO—A federal jury today convicted a Dubuque, Iowa machinist of mailing a dozen threatening letters from the Chicago area and elsewhere and mailing two pipe bombs from a Chicago suburb, all between 2005 and early 2007, to investment firms and advisors as part of terror campaign to drive up the value of stock he owned in two companies. The defendant, John P. Tomkins, who signed some of his letters “THE BISHOP” and who represented himself at trial, was found guilty after several hours of deliberation following a two-week trial in U.S. District Court.

Tomkins, 47, was convicted of using a destructive device while mailing a threatening communication, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years to a maximum of life in prison, and the sentence on that count must be imposed consecutively to the sentence imposed on other counts. He was also convicted of two counts of possessing a unregistered destructive device, each of which carries a maximum 10-year prison term, and nine counts of mailing a threatening communication, which carries a maximum of 20 years on each count.

U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., tentatively scheduled sentencing for August 6, 2012. Tomkins has remained in federal custody without bond since he was arrested on April 25, 2007, following an intensive investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“We should not lose sight of the fact while these events happened five years ago, the victims who received these threats and bombs were struck with fear, and the agents who conducted this investigation potentially saved lives by apprehending this defendant before he posed any greater public peril,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

“This conviction was the result of a true team law enforcement effort. The Postal Inspection Service identified Tomkins before his behavior became more agitated and we were able to stop his acts of terror. The Postal Inspection Service takes any crime involving the mail very seriously and we will continue to investigate individuals who misuse the U.S. mail to commit crime,” said Thomas P. Brady, Inspector in Charge of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The evidence at trial showed that the two unregistered destructive devices were each mailed on Jan. 26, 2007, at the Rolling Meadows Post Office, northwest of Chicago. One package was addressed to an individual at Janus Small Cap at an address in Denver, where it was forwarded unopened by Janus to a related investment entity in Chicago. The second parcel was addressed to an individual at American Century at an address in Kansas City, Missouri. Upon delivery, authorities were notified and both parcels were recovered by Postal Inspectors.

Each parcel contained an improvised explosive weapon, commonly known as a pipe bomb. Expert testimony at trial showed that they were functional, even though the firing circuit was not fully connected, and they were capable of exploding as a result of jostling or impact and causing serious injury or death to persons near the explosion. Each parcel contained a letter stating, in part: “BANG!! YOU”RE DEAD.”

Tomkins was convicted of mailing a dozen threatening letters to investment companies and individuals associated with them between May 23, 2005, and July 17, 2006. The typewritten letters bore postmarks from Chicago, Palatine, Milwaukee, Des Moines, and Orlando, and some were signed “THE BISHOP,” while others ended with the words “TIC TOC.” The first letter, for example, stated how easy it is to kill someone, citing “The Unibomber” (sic) and “Salvo,” a reference to convicted sniper Lee Malvo. In addition to threatening language, some of the letters demanded that the price of the former 3Com Corporation (COMS) stock be raised to $6.66 by a certain date. Other demands were made for a rally in the stock price of Navarre Corporation, a publicly traded technology and entertainment company that traded under the ticker symbol NAVR.

Evidence also included U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records showing individuals with positions of at least 200 option contracts. Two reports each obtained for 3Com and Navarre identified Tomkins as the only investor whose account appeared in those reports at certain times dating back to 2005. Trading records showed that Tomkins held financial interests in 3Com and Navarre that would have increased in value had the securities moved in the directions demanded in the threatening letters and when the pipe bombs were mailed.

One the day he was arrested, law enforcement officials searched storage garages rented by Tomkins in Dubuque and recovered two additional assembled pipe bombs similar to the ones that were mailed, as well as all of the components used in making the mailed devices. For example, inspectors discovered store receipts for shotgun shells containing the explosive powder that was used in the mailed pipe bombs and was purchased in Madison, Wisconsin, 23 days before the two package bombs were mailed. Inspectors also found a receipt for end caps used to assemble the devices that were purchased in Dubuque just two days before they were mailed in January 2007.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick C. Pope and Paul H. Tzur.

The intensive investigation was led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, joined by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The SEC, the Illinois State Police, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Dubuque, Kansas City, and Chicago Police Departments, the Quad Cities Bomb Squad, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Iowa also assisted in the investigation.

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