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Press Release

Iowa Man Sentenced To 37 Years In Prison For Mailing Pipe Bombs And Threats To Investment Firms In Bid To Raise Stock Prices

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — A former Dubuque, Iowa, machinist was sentenced today to 37 years in prison for mailing a dozen threatening letters from the Chicago area and elsewhere, and mailing two pipe bombs from a Chicago suburb, between 2005 and early 2007 to investment firms and advisors as part of terror campaign to drive up the value of stock he owned in two companies. The defendant, JOHN P. TOMKINS, who signed some of his letters “THE BISHOP,” was convicted in May 2012 after a two-week trial in U.S. District Court.

Tomkins, 48, received a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years for using a destructive device while mailing a threatening communication, which was imposed consecutively to seven years on other counts. He was convicted of two counts of possessing a unregistered destructive device and nine counts of mailing a threatening communication.

Tomkins “taunted” and “terrified” a dozen victims, who could have been seriously injured or killed, in committing “a series of horrific crimes,” U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., said in imposing the sentence after conducting a hearing last month. Tomkins has remained in federal custody without bond since he was arrested on April 25, 2007, following an investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“Tomkins took these terrifying and secretive actions because he was greedy – because he did not like the financial and life situation in which he found himself. To remedy those perceived problems, he decided to terrorize people to get what he wanted. He was indifferent to whether he killed people in the process. For these horrific choices, that he repeatedly made over the course of two years, Tomkins received the lengthy sentence imposed today,” said Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

“Through an intensive investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service identified Tomkins before his behavior led to victims sustaining severe physical injuries or even death. Although this sentencing brings Tomkins’ acts of terror to a close, his victims will live forever with the pain they suffered because of him. The Postal Inspection Service takes any crime involving the mail very seriously and we will continue to investigate individuals who misuse the U.S. mail to commit crime,” said Pete Zegarac, Inspector-in-Charge of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The evidence at trial showed that the two unregistered destructive devices were each mailed on Jan. 26, 2007, at the Rolling Meadows Post Office, northwest of Chicago. One package was addressed to an individual at Janus Small Cap at an address in Denver, where it was forwarded unopened by Janus to a related investment entity in Chicago. The second parcel was addressed to an individual at American Century at an address in Kansas City, Mo. Upon delivery, authorities were notified and both parcels were recovered by Postal Inspectors.

Each parcel contained an improvised explosive weapon, commonly known as a pipe bomb. Expert testimony at trial showed that they were functional, even though the firing circuit was not fully connected, and they were capable of exploding as a result of jostling or impact and causing serious injury or death to persons near the explosion. Each parcel contained a letter stating, in part: “BANG!! YOU’RE DEAD.”

Tomkins was convicted of mailing a dozen threatening letters to investment companies and individuals associated with them between May 23, 2005, and July 17, 2006. The typewritten letters bore postmarks from Chicago, Palatine, Milwaukee, Des Moines and Orlando, Fla., and some were signed “THE BISHOP,” while others ended with the words “TIC TOC.” The first letter, for example, stated how easy it is to kill someone, citing “The Unibomber” (sic) and “Salvo,” a reference to convicted sniper Lee Malvo. In addition to threatening language, some of the letters demanded that the price of the former 3Com Corporation (COMS) stock be raised to $6.66 by a certain date. Other demands were made for a rally in the stock price of Navarre Corporation, a publicly-traded technology and entertainment company that traded under the ticker symbol NAVR.

Evidence also included U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records showing individuals with positions of at least 200 option contracts. Two reports each obtained for 3Com and Navarre identified Tomkins as the only investor whose account appeared in those reports at certain times dating back to 2005. Trading records showed that Tomkins held financial interests in 3Com and Navarre that would have increased in value had the securities moved in the directions demanded in the threatening letters and when the pipe bombs were mailed.

One the day he was arrested, law enforcement officials searched storage garages rented by Tomkins in Dubuque and recovered two additional assembled pipe bombs similar to the ones that were mailed, as well as all of the components used in making the mailed devices. For example, inspectors discovered store receipts for shotgun shells containing the explosive powder that was used in the mailed pipe bombs and was purchased in Madison, Wis., 23 days before the two package bombs were mailed. Inspectors also found a receipt for end caps used to assemble the devices that were purchased in Dubuque just two days before they were mailed in January 2007.

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick C. Pope and Paul H. Tzur.

The investigation was led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, joined by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. The SEC, the Illinois State Police, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Dubuque, Kansas City and Chicago police departments, the Quad Cities Bomb Squad, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Iowa also assisted in the investigation.

Updated July 23, 2015