Federal authorities say a Michigan man bought and hid more than 4,000 pounds of explosives with enough potential firepower to equal the Oklahoma City bombing and told an undercover informant that "when the government takes over, we will be mercenaries."
John Francis Lechner, 64, was arrested last week on a charge of possessing explosives and ordered held following a U.S. District Court hearing Monday. His attorney said Lechner, a builder and farmer from Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula, obtained the materials for construction projects.
"He's not a terrorist, he's not a mercenary, he's not some freedom fighter," defense attorney Charles Malette told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "He intended no type of violence, pro- or anti-government. The man is not like that."
Prosecutors and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did not accuse Lechner of plotting to detonate the mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. Assistant U.S. Attorney Maarten Vermaat told the AP he had "no idea" what Lechner planned to do with the materials.
In an affidavit, ATF agent Timothy DeClaire said an informant told the Chippewa County Sheriff's Department that Lechner asked for help moving and hiding the mixture. The informant wore a recording device while performing the task. The affidavit said a sheriff's detective listened to a recording and heard Lechner's remark about "mercenaries."
DeClaire said he obtained a search warrant Sept. 20 and found 83 bags of the mixture, each weighing about 50 pounds. The next day, he found a supply of explosive boosters, detonating cord and blasting caps at Lechner's mother's nearby home.