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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of Michigan
For Immediate Release
Dawn N. Ison, United States Attorney
Monday, July 18, 2022

Northern Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Leaving Pipe Bombs at Cell Phone Stores

BAY CITY – A Whittemore, Michigan, resident pleaded guilty today to two separate criminal cases related to the placement of explosive packages outside cellphone stores in Cheboygan, and Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, announced Eastern District of Michigan United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison and Western District of Michigan United States Attorney Mark Totten.  Whittemore and Cheboygan are in the Eastern District and Sault Ste. Marie is in the Western District.

Ison and Totten were joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

John Douglas Allen, 76, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City, Michigan.  Allen faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on November, 9, 2022.

During the plea hearing, Allen admitted that on September 15, 2021, at approximately 7:36 pm, he placed a United States Postal Service (USPS) box with black tape on it and a wire coming out of it outside an AT&T Store in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  Later that evening, Allen placed another USPS box with black tape on it and a wire coming out of it outside of a Verizon Store in Cheboygan, Michigan.  The two devices were examined by the FBI laboratory Explosive Unit, which concluded that the two devices were improvised explosive devices (IEDs), also commonly referred to as pipe bombs. Both pipe bombs contained shrapnel and a threat note demanding $5 million.   Based on video footage taken from the cell phone stores and other nearby businesses, as well as an exhaustive investigation by law enforcement, agents were able to determine that Allen was the person who left the packages outside of the stores.   

In addition, Allen pleaded guilty to placing letters containing threats aimed at telecommunications providers at cell towers located in the Upper Peninsula. 

“The actions of this defendant could have resulted in significant bodily harm or death to citizens in the area,” stated U.S. Attorney Ison.  “Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners and prosecutors, we were able to find and remove these dangerous devices before the defendant could cause serious harm.”

U.S. Attorney Totten added, “Allen’s actions in placing pipe bombs in front of commercial businesses in Sault Ste. Marie and Cheboygan endangered the lives of innocent citizens, first responders, and the bomb technicians who rendered those devices safe.  Grievances and disputes cannot be communicated or resolved through threats of violence or extortion.”   

This case was investigated by special agents, intelligence analysts, troopers, deputies, and officers from the FBI, Michigan State Police, Cheboygan County Sheriff's Office, Cheboygan Police Department, Sault Ste. Marie Police Department, Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Police, the US Coast Guard Investigative Service, US Border Patrol and ATF.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Michael Buckley, Jerome Gorgon, Christopher O’Connor and Theodore Greeley are prosecuting the case in their respective districts.


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