Federal Jury Convicts Registered Sex Offender In Plot To Bomb Target Stores
Ocala, Florida – A federal jury has found Mark Charles Barnett (50, Ocala) guilty of attempted arson, possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act (NFA) destructive device, and making an unregistered NFA destructive device. Barnett faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for the attempted arson count and up to 10 years in federal prison on each of the destructive device convictions. His sentencing hearing has been set for October 17, 2018.
A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Barnett with these crimes on June 20, 2018.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Barnett offered a Confidential Source (CS) $10,000 to place improvised explosive bombs inside Target stores along the east coast of the United States. Barnett purchased the bomb components and assembled at least 10 of the destructive devices, which he disguised inside the packaging of common grocery items. He then delivered the devices to the CS with instructions to put them on the shelves of Target stores from New York to Florida. The CS, however, promptly surrendered the destructive devices to authorities and Barnett was arrested on February 14, 2017.
Barnett theorized that the company’s stock value would plunge after the explosions, allowing him to cheaply acquire shares of Target stock before an eventual rebound in prices. Barnett told the source, “If someone has to die so that I can make some money, so be it.”
Federal explosives experts subsequently determined that the resulting fire and explosion from each of the devices would have been capable of causing property damage, serious injury, and death. Searches of Barnett’s house, cellphone, and computer revealed pictures of the grocery items that he had turned into bombs, as well as leftover bomb components and articles describing stock options.
Barnett, a registered sex offender, had been conditionally released from state prison in 2013, following multiple felony convictions for sexual assault, kidnapping, and grand theft. He was also previously convicted of kidnapping in Mississippi.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Corrections - Probation and Parole, and the Ocala Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.