A software consultant in California has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after he embarked on a spree of armed bank robberies and amassed a huge stockpile of homemade explosives at his home, residues from which blew up and injured a local gardener and necessitated the total destruction of the building on grounds of safety.
George Jakubec, 55, "was successful and well-liked at work" according to Maria Ivanova, his Russian wife whom he had met on the internet.
But the San Diego resident, who had worked for Burroughs Corp and Unisys and as a contractor, went off the rails after falling on hard times in the Noughties. He committed several armed bank robberies, and began hoarding electronic components and homemade explosives in his house.
The AP reports that Jakubec admitted manufacturing and accumulating a fearful stash of infernal devices including nine detonators and 13 grenade hulls. He had also made substantial quantities of hexamethylenetriperoxidediamine (HMTD), a very dangerous and unstable high explosive which can be detonated merely by light impacts, and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a more stable high explosive.
Jakubec's crime spree was brought to an end after a gardener stepped on explosive residues (probably containing HMTD) in his back yard, causing an explosion which left the luckless horticulturist with multiple injuries. This alerted the authorities, who duly braceleted the rogue software expert. His house, crammed with dangerous and unpredictable explosives, was deemed impossible to render safe at reasonable levels of risk and it was destroyed using low-order explosive techniques in a $541,000 operation last November.
The errant demolitions hobbyist reportedly cooperated with the authorities fully, admitting four bank robberies in the San Diego area and to making and keeping his illegal explosives stash. He also pledged to reimburse San Diego County for the cost of safely destroying his house, though there is apparently some doubt over his ability to do so.
US District Judge Larry Burns appears to have felt some sympathy for Jakubec while sentencing him on Monday, telling him "you're not the shoe bomber", and postponing any judgement that he should cough up for the demolitions bill.
"If he were Donald Trump, then I'd stick him with it," commented the federal beak. However, he was compelled by mandatory minimum sentencing rules on armed bank robbers to give Jakubec a 30-year spell of porridge, though Burns commented that in his opinion this was a little excessive in this case. ®
HMTD is seen by the more competent terrorist or bomb-maker as being suitable for use only in primary charges (ie detonators) due to its sensitivity. The liquid bomb airliner plotters intended to use it in this way. However, the even more lunatic fringe have been known to keep large amounts of it - several pounds or more - in a single mass.
PETN, more stable, can be used as a main charge: though the mainstream weapons industry normally only does this in the case of detonating cord, generally employing PETN as a secondary charge between primary and main. PETN was used unsuccessfully by the wouldbe airliner shoe bomber Richard Reid and the pants bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab.
Low order techniques are any methods where a high explosive is made to destroy itself without detonating and releasing its full power (that would be a high order technique). In general the aim will be to make the explosive burn. The rule of thumb with low-order techniques is that they should not be used if the results of a high-order would be unacceptable, as there is always the risk of heat and pressure building up to the point where detonation will occur.
Lewis Page was an armed-forces explosive ordnance disposal (EOD, ie bomb disposal) operator until 2004.