A 75-year-old man faces federal charges after authorities allege he planted pipe bombs around cell phone stores in Michigan, on a crusade to stop pornography, cursing, and "indecent communication."
On Tuesday, according to the FBI, Allen allegedly left boxes with wires protruding out of them outside of a Verizon store in Cheboygan, Michigan, and outside of an AT&T store in Sault Ste. Marie. The FBI's Explosive Unit determined they were homemade pipe bombs. Surveillance videos outside of the stores showed Allen placing them.
In a typewritten letter addressed to “AT&T, Verizon, and all other Carriers," sealed in a polka dot envelope inside a plastic baggie and left near a cell tower, Allen wrote:
“We are almost thirty strong. We are prepared to travel throughout this Country and begin destroying inner city tower communication unless the following is followed:
- All telecommunications containing immoral content must be stopped. This includes cursing, the transmission of pornography, and all manner of indecent communication. As software must me[sic] developed, you are therefore given six months to comply with this demand.”
The letter goes on to say that instructions are coming for the carriers to send $5 million to something called CMT, and a threat that if one of its members is arrested, "your problems will begin." Prosecutors allege in the complaint that Allen admitted that CMT was a fictional organization. Allen called himself “Handcuff Johnny," believing that he would end up in handcuffs because of these bombs and threats.
According to the federal complaint, the devices were improvised explosive devices: "Each of the devices consisted of a metal pipe nipple with two metal end caps, which provided containment for the low explosive powder main charge," FBI Special Agent Sean Flood wrote. "Metal spheres and nails were found within the powders of each device. Hardened objects such as these enhance the explosive effect, propelling fragments of metal outwards at high velocities which can cause additional damage and injuries."
Flood also found Allen's LinkedIn profile, and discovered that he's a retired underground miner.
This isn't the first time anti-pornography extremists have turned to violent threats to further their cause. Anti-masturbation groups often have roots in fascism and extremism. In April, shortly after payment processors dropped service to Pornhub, an arsonist allegedly lit a Pornhub executive's mansion on fire. Also in April, Motherboard investigated links between conservative anti-trafficking groups including Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly Morality in Media) and violent white supremacist rhetoric spreading online; these groups did not explicitly call for physical violence against Pornhub.
Allen is charged with extortion and attempted damage of buildings used in interstate commerce, each carrying up to a 20 year prison sentence.