Man charged with placing homemade bombs at Michigan cell phone stores to remain jailed

Carol Thompson
The Detroit News

Bay City — A central Michigan man accused of leaving pipe bombs and threatening letters at locations in northern Michigan will remain in jail as he awaits trial on charges of extortion and attempting to destroy a building. 

John Douglas Allen, 75, of Whittemore, appeared in U.S. District Court in Bay City on Friday morning, his first court appearance since he was arrested Monday.

Allen agreed Friday to remain in custody and waive his preliminary hearing for 90 days. He has been jailed without bond since his arrest. If convicted, he could serve five to 20 years in prison. 

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Surveillance video shows a man who appears to be John Allen carrying  a box outside an AT&T store in Sault Ste. Marie on Sept. 15, according to court records. The box was wrapped in black tape and had a wire extending from the package.

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Buckley said prosecutors and Allen's defense attorney, Steve Jacobs, needed time to wade through what they believe will be "voluminous" evidence.

Jacobs declined to comment after the hearing in U.S. District Court Magistrate Patricia Morris's courtroom.

Allen is accused of leaving homemade explosives in a U.S. Post Office box outside an AT&T store in Sault Ste. Marie and a Verizon Store in Cheboygan in September. The FBI said surveillance videos showed Allen placing the pipe bombs outside the stores, although he had switched his license plate for one purchased at a Bay City flea market. 

The bombs contained metal balls and nails that made them particularly dangerous, an FBI agent said in a criminal filing. 

Allen also is accused of leaving several threatening letters aimed at telecommunication carriers near cell phone towers in the Upper Peninsula. The letters were placed inside polka dot envelopes and sealed in zip-close bags. The letters were found in late August.

The letters were sent from the "Coalition for Moral Telecommunication" and addressed to companies including AT&T and Verizon. The so-called coalition demanded $5 million and for the companies to stop distributing "immoral content" including pornography.