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Press Release

Northern Michigan Man Sentenced For Leaving Pipe Bombs At Cell Phone Stores As Part Of A $5 Million Extortion Plot

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          BAY CITY – A Whittemore, Michigan, resident was sentenced today to 75 months on two separate criminal cases related to a $5 million extortion plot using shrapnel-filled pipe bombs the defendant placed 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, was sentenced before United States District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City, Michigan. Allen had pleaded guilty to extortion by wrongful use of force, violence, and fear, as well as two counts of attempted destruction of a building using an explosive device in July. 

          According to court records, 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.  In addition, threat notes demanding $5 million were placed on cell phone towers in the area as well as mailed to the telecommunications companies.  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.  The defendant claimed that he was motivated by what he viewed as immoral content being spread on the internet and cellphones.     

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

          “A top priority for my office is ensuring the safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Mark “Totten. “Allen’s actions in placing pipe bombs in front of commercial businesses endangered not only the lives of innocent individuals, but also our first responders and the bomb technicians who rendered those devices safe.  My office will continue to aggressively pursue individuals for crimes like this that put our first responders and communities at risk.”

          “This defendant sought to use terror, threats, and bombs to scare ordinary people going about their business,” stated U.S. Attorney Ison.  “We will not tolerate individuals who use fear to try to line their own pockets.”

          “Today’s sentence demonstrates the gravity of the defendant’s egregious behavior to place the lives of innocent citizens at risk in order to extort money from companies,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “This coordinated effort by local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies across Michigan helped protect communities from being further victimized and sends a clear message that crime does not pay.”

          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.


Updated November 10, 2022

Violent Crime