Pittsburgh Man Charged with Possession of a Destructive Device after Placing a Backpack of Homemade Explosives in Downtown

A Pittsburgh man has been charged federally with illegal possession of an unregistered destructive device after planting a backpack with homemade explosives in a downtown open space, United States Attorney Scott Brady has announced.

A Pittsburgh man has been charged federally with illegal possession of an unregistered destructive device after planting a backpack with homemade explosives in a downtown open space, United States Attorney Scott Brady has announced.

Matthew Michanowicz, 52, of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, is charged by complaint with knowingly and unlawfully possessing a firearm, that is, a destructive device, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

Michanowicz was taken into custody Friday evening by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department.

He will make his appearance in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh at a date to be determined by the court.

U.S. Attorney Brady said, “Once again, we see that certain participants in the protests in Pittsburgh were only present to serve as agitators and to incite violence. Let’s call them what they are: criminals. They have no intention of peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights; they seek only to incite and destroy. Michanowicz brought a backpack full of homemade Molotov cocktails to downtown Pittsburgh. He wasn’t there to protest; he was there to engage in violent attacks. I hope that any organizers or protestors who are participating consistent with the First Amendment will help identify and stop agitators who seek to manipulate their protest for violent ends. Rest assured that we stand ready to prosecute such provocateurs federally.”

According to the complaint, on June 1, 2020 at approximated 8 a.m., Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officers were called to the open area of 2 PNC Plaza facing Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh to respond to a suspicious bag.

They had been called by PNC security officers for a “Military, green backpack” located by a bicycle rack under some trees on PNC property. PBP officers discovered three devices and a foul odor and called the PBP Bomb Squad. The Bomb Squad found three suspected “homemade Molotov cocktails.”

According to the complaint, the devices are described as “spent OC vapor grenades” (identified by the PBPBS as spent devices they had previously deployed) which contained a fluid that had a smell similar to an ignitable liquid. The liquid was leaking out of one or more of the devices. All three devices had wicks attached to them, which were held in place by what appears to be “spray foam insulation.”

Security camera footage provided to PBP by PNC security showed someone possessing the bag at the scene where it was recovered.

That person was described as an older man, approximately 6’-6’1″ who rides a blue bicycle with a bright red pouch on the handlebars.

On the evening of June 3, 2020 a patrolling PBP officer saw a man with a bicycle matching that description in the exact location where the bag has been discovered on June 1, 2020. The officer approached the individual to identify him and Michanowicz provided only his last name.

The officer stated that after he identified Michanowicz, he released him, but Michanowicz stayed in the immediate vicinity.

The officer stated he called a PBP supervisor to report that he had stopped someone matching the description, and another PBP supervisor then directed the officer to detain Michanowicz and bring him to PBP Headquarters for questioning.

During questioning Michanowicz said he visited downtown to look at the “aftermath” of the riots and protests. Michanowicz admitted he was in the individual depicted in photographs from the surveillance footage but denied possessing the bag or knowing its contents. Michanowicz also stated he never possessed any destructive devices, including the devices recovered from the bag.

According to the complaint, on June 4, 2020, ATF Agents from the Pittsburgh Field Office executed a federal search warrant at Michanowicz’s residence at 144 Republic Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15211.

The search revealed, all in close proximity to each other on a workbench in the garage, a bundle of fuse exhibiting the same color and characteristics of the fuses found on the previously seized destructive devices, some partially burnt fuse remnants that appear to be from the same fuse bundle, a can of spray foam insulation consistent with the type of spray foam insulation that had been applied to the exterior of all three recovered destructive devices, and a syringe emitting a strong odor consistent with an ignitable liquid.

Also found in the garage were approximately 10 camouflage backpacks that were similar in size, pattern and configuration to the bag in which the destructive devices were discovered. A search of the trashcan in the garage revealed retail packaging of fuses and a pair of used latex gloves that emitted a strong odor consistent with an ignitable liquid.

It is unlawful for an individual to manufacture, possess, or transfer a Destructive Device without first being registered in ATF’s National Firearms Transfer Record (NFA) registry and without serial numbers being issued for said NFA Weapons (i.e.; Destructive Devices).

An NFA inquiry made on June 4, 2020, showed there was no such registration for Michanowicz.

The count charged in the criminal complaint carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Brady credited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, for conducting the investigation leading to the charges in this case. U.S. Attorney Brady also thanked the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office for apprehending the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar is prosecuting this case for the government.

The details contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Justice.gov (June 2020) Pittsburgh Man Charged with Possession of a Destructive Device after Placing a Backpack of Homemade Explosives in Downtown

Pharmacist Arrested and Charged with Firebombing Plot

A Nebraska pharmacist was arrested on Friday on charges related to an alleged conspiracy to use explosives, specifically Molotov cocktails, to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy.

According to court documents, Hyrum T. Wilson, 41, of Auburn, told an alleged co-conspirator: “This is the last shipment he will get from me as long as the other pharmacy is still standing.”

Wilson allegedly supplied thousands of prescription pills, including opioids, from his business, Hyrum’s Family Value Pharmacy, to William Anderson Burgamy IV. Burgamy allegedly operated as the Darknet vendor NeverPressedRX (NPRX) from August 2019 through April 2020, and had thousands of illegal recorded sales on a major Darknet market. Burgamy was charged in the Eastern District of Virginia last week and ordered detained.

The firebombing plot was uncovered through search warrants that were executed following Burgamy’s arrest.

According to court documents, Wilson conspired with Burgamy to conduct a firebombing of another pharmacy in Auburn, Nebraska. The goal of the plot was to destroy Wilson’s local competition, which Wilson and Burgamy allegedly believed would increase the volume of prescription drugs that Wilson’s business could obtain, thereby allowing Wilson and Burgamy’s drug trafficking operation to continue and expand.

Wilson and Burgamy allegedly agreed that the plot, named “Operation Firewood,” would involve the use of Molotov cocktails to burn down the victim pharmacy, and that Burgamy would carry numerous firearms during the attack.

Wilson allegedly created “getaway” maps and routes for Burgamy to use to help him evade law enforcement detection following the intended firebombing. Wilson also suggested that Burgamy steal prescription medications from the victim pharmacy before setting it on fire, and Burgamy offered to share with Wilson the profits from any stolen drugs.

Wilson is charged with conspiracy to use fire and explosives, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and a firearms-related offense. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kevin Vorndran, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division; Mark S. McCormack, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Metro Washington Field Office; Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, made the announcement.

The FBI’s Omaha Field Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nebraska provided significant assistance in executing the arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh is prosecuting the case.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, which is composed of FBI agents and task force partners, including special agents and officers of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and detectives from local assisting police agencies. The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious Dark Web marketplaces, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids. This investigation was also supported by the interagency Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:20-mj-140.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Justice.gov (April 2020) Pharmacist Arrested and Charged with Firebombing Plot

Chinese Pastor Charged with Subversion of State Power

House Church Pastor Arrested for Refusing to Join State-Vetted Church

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a house church pastor in China’s Hunan province was arrested on April 2, after being criminally detained since March 14 for “inciting subversion of state power.”

On April 11, Bethel Church sent out an urgent prayer request for its pastor, Zhao Huaiguo, asking for nationwide prayers for its pastor who was arrested on April 2 on subversion charges.

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Zhao, the founder of Bethel Church in Cili county, has served at his church for 13 years, cultivating many leaders among the several hundred members. The church refused to join the state-vetted Three-Self church and was banned last year by the government.

According to China Aid, a local Christian shared that the authorities have been hostile toward Pastor Zhao since his church refused to join the state-sanctioned church and rejected government officials’ intervention. “He was accused of proselytizing and distributing Gospel tracts, which were considered illegal acts. After Lunar New Year last year, the religious bureau forced the church to disperse, to which it refused. The official ban arrived last April,” said the local Christian.

On April 10, 2019, nearly 50 people from the local authorities raided Bethel Church, damaging church property and confiscating Bibles, a piano, and hymn books. Pastor Zhao and other members were questioned and warned.

A Bethel Church member told China Aid that from March to December 2019, the public security police have repeatedly harassed the church, taking its preachers in for investigation and forcing them to sign an agreement that they would not preach or hold any more religious activities.

Following Zhao’s arrest, the authorities have been investigating the church’s offering and its sources, in an effort to find proof to accuse Pastor Zhao. Yet, since the church members refused to provide information, the police have made little progress thus far.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said“For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to slap the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ on Pastor Zhao, typically used against human rights lawyers and activists, it shows how the regime is fearful of anybody who is disobedient to the CCP. The laws in China now have become tools for the government to silence and weaken its citizens’ influence, even in a religious setting. The lack of rule of law in China should gravely concern the international community.”

Persecution.org (April 2020) Chinese Pastor Charged with Subversion of State Power

ICE Dallas arrests Salvadoran gang member wanted for capital murder

Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested a Salvadoran man Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, who was wanted for capital murder. 

Jonathan Alexander Gonzalez-Rosales, 25, is in the U.S. illegally and an active member of the 18th Street Gang, a transnational criminal organization.

The Texas Office of the Attorney General assisted members of the ERO Dallas Fugitive Operations Team with the arrest.

According to court documents, Gonzalez-Rosales was wanted for the murder of Franklin Alexander Mercado, 17. Mercado’s body was discovered Jan. 22, 2020, in the 300 block of N. Prairie Creek Road in Dallas with multiple stab wounds. A Dallas County magistrate judge issued an arrest warrant for Gonzalez-Rosales April 1, 2020, for capital murder.

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ERO officers previously encountered Gonzalez-Rosales Dec. 10, 2017, at a magistrate court in San Antonio, Texas, and lodged an immigration detainer. The following day, ERO San Antonio issued Gonzalez-Rosales a Notice to Appear, and on Feb. 7, 2018, an immigration judge grant him bond. He was released from ICE custody Feb. 22, 2018, after posting bond.

Gonzalez-Rosales did not appear for his July 16, 2018, immigration court hearing, and an immigration judge in San Antonio ordered him removed in absentia to El Salvador.

He remained an immigration fugitive until his most recent arrest by ERO.

ERO Dallas officers arrested Gonzalez-Rosales April 2, 2020, in Arlington, Texas, and transported him to the Bedford City Jail in Bedford, Texas. 

On April 3, 2020, ERO Dallas processed Gonzalez-Rosales, who will remain in ICE custody until he is transferred to the Dallas County Jail to face the pending capital murder charges. 

ICE.gov (April 2020) ICE Dallas arrests Salvadoran gang member wanted for capital murder

FBI takes down Russian-Based Hacker Platform; Arrests suspected Russian Site Administrator

A Russian-based cyber platform known as DEER.IO was shut down by the FBI today, and its suspected administrator – alleged Russian hacker Kirill Victorovich Firsov – was arrested and charged with crimes related to the hacking of U.S. companies for customers’ personal information.

DEER.IO was a Russian-based cyber platform that allowed criminals to purchase access to cyber storefronts on the platform and sell their criminal products or services.  DEER.IO started operations as of at least October 2013, and claimed to have over 24,000 active shops with sales exceeding $17 million. The platform was shut down pursuant to a seizure order issued by the Southern District of California Court.

FBI agents arrested Firsov, a Russian cyber hacker, on March 7 in New York City. Firsov not only managed the DEER.IO platform, he also advertised it on other cyber forums, which catered to hackers. Firsov is next scheduled to appear on April 16, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard.

According to a federal complaint, DEER.IO virtual stores offered for sale a variety of hacked and/or compromised U.S. and international financial and corporate data, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and compromised user accounts from many U.S. companies. Individuals could also buy computer files, financial information, PII, and usernames and passwords taken from computers infected with malicious software (malware) located both in the U.S. and abroad. Law enforcement found no legitimate business advertising its services and/or products through a DEER.IO storefront. Store operators and customers accessed the storefront via the Internet.  Specifically, in this case, the FBI made purchases from DEER.IO storefronts hosted on Russian servers.

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The DEER.IO platform offered a turnkey online storefront design and hosting platform, from which cybercriminals could advertise and sell their products (such as harvested credentials and hacked servers) and services (such as assistance performing a panoply of cyber hacking activities). The DEER.IO online stores were maintained on Russian-controlled infrastructure. The DEER.IO platform provided shop owners with an easy-to-use interface that allowed for the automated purchase and delivery of criminal goods and services.

Once shop access was purchased via the DEER.IO platform, the site then guided the newly-minted shop owner through an automated set-up to upload the products and services offered through the shop and configure crypto-currency wallets to collect payments for the purchased products and/or services.

As of 2019, a cybercriminal who wanted to sell contraband or offer criminal services through DEER.IO could purchase a storefront directly from the DEER.IO website for 800 Rubles (approximately $12.50) per month. The monthly fee was payable by Bitcoin or a variety of online payment methods such as WebMoney, a Russian based money transfer system similar to PayPal.

A cybercriminal who wanted to purchase from storefronts on the DEER.IO platform could use a web browser to navigate to the DEER.IO domain, which resolved to DEER.IO storefronts. DEER.IO contained a search function, so individuals could search for hacked accounts from specific companies or PII from specific countries, or the user could navigate through the platform, scanning stores advertising a wide array of hacked accounts or cyber-criminal services for sale. Purchases were also conducted using cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, or through the Russian-based money transfer systems.

On or about March 4, 2020, the FBI purchased approximately 1,100 gamer accounts from the DEER.IO store ACCOUNTS-MARKET.DEER.IS for under $20 in Bitcoin. Once payment was complete, the FBI obtained the gamer accounts, including the user name and password for each account. Out of the 1,100 gamer accounts, 249 accounts were hacked Company A accounts. Company A confirmed that if a hacker gained access to the user name and password of a user account, that hacker could use that account. A gamer account provides access to the user’s entire media library. The accounts often have linked payment methods, so the hacker could use the linked payment method to make additional purchases on the account. Some users also have subscription-based services attached to their gamer accounts.

On or about March 5, 2020, the FBI purchased approximately 999 individual PII accounts from the DEER.IO store SHIKISHOP.DEER.IS for approximately $170 in Bitcoin.  On that same date, the FBI purchased approximately 2,650 individual PII accounts from the DEER.IO store SHIKISHOP.DEER.IS for approximately $522 in Bitcoin. From those identities, the FBI identified names, dates of birth and U.S. Social Security numbers for multiple individuals who reside in San Diego County, including G.V. and L.Y.

“There is a robust underground market for hacked stolen information, and this was a novel way to try to market it to criminals hoping not to get caught,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Hackers are a threat to our economy, and our privacy and national security, and cannot be tolerated.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel stated, “Deer.io was the largest centralized platform, which promoted and facilitated the sale of compromised social media and financial accounts, personally identifiable information (PII) and hacked computers on the internet. The seizure of this criminal website represents a significant step in reducing stolen data used to victimize individuals and businesses in the United States and abroad.  The FBI will continue to be at the forefront of protecting Americans from foreign and domestic cyber criminals.”

The office extends its appreciation to the New York Division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection operating at John F. Kennedy International Airport and to private sector cyber-security company Black Echo LLC, which provided assistance throughout the investigation.

Report cyber crimes by filing a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, by calling your local FBI office or 1800 CALL FBI.

DEFENDANT                                    Case Number20MJ1029

Kirill Victorovich Firsov                    Age: 28


Unauthorized Solicitation of Access Devices, 18 USC Sec. 1029(a)(6)(A)

Maximum Penalty: Ten years in prison, $250,000 fine, restitution.

FBI.gov (March 2020) FBI Takes Down a Russian-Based Hacker Platform; Arrests Suspected Russian Site Administrator