HOUSTON – A man who told undercover agents he has "no loyalty for America" has been charged with trying to build a bomb and sell it to an affiliate of Al Qaeda (search), officials said Monday.
Ronald A. Grecula (search), 68, of Bangor, Pa., was arrested Friday in Houston during a meeting with undercover FBI agents, U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby (search) said. At the meeting, Grecula indicated willingness to build and sell an explosive device that would be used against Americans, officials alleged in court documents.
Grecula was angry at the government over losing custody of his children, with whom he fled to Malta. He met a confidential source in prison there while awaiting extradition to the United States for the alleged kidnapping of the children, then 10 and 3, in a custody dispute in 2002.
Grecula appeared in court Monday but did not enter a plea. A detention hearing was set for Thursday. He has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
"The very first priority of this administration and this Department of Justice is to stop another 9/11 attack and this is a success story in that effort," Shelby told a news conference.
Grecula's lawyer had no comment.
According to a complaint, Grecula asked the confidential source to find a client for a large bomb he was willing to build and sell. He specifically mentioned Al Qaeda, but indicated he would sell it to any such group. Negotiations continued between April and Friday, the complaint stated.
Grecula told the source he could buy all the bomb components — including hydrogen chlorine — at a welding store, and that he was educated as a mechanical engineer and experimented with alternative fuels and energy.
"If we had one of those in this room right now filled with hydrogen chlorine, this hotel wouldn't be here. It would be a crater in the ground," Grecula said during a meeting Friday with the confidential source and an undercover officer who presented himself as an Al Qaeda agent.
Grecula said he would be willing to build the bomb in exchange for custody of his two children. His estranged wife lives in Houston; efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.
The confidential source also told authorities Grecula wanted help in hiring an assassin to kill his estranged wife. Shelby said no federal charges were expected to emerge from those allegations.
At one point during the meeting videotaped by authorities, Grecula compared himself to the Roman slave Spartacus, the complaint said.
"He was tortured in prison, he was beat up, took his family, killed his friends, etc.," Grecula allegedly said. "So, you could say in a way I am like a Spartacus. ... So, that's it, I have no loyalty to America."