ALBUQUERQUE – Numerous firearms and a chop-shop for stolen vehicles were discovered in the recovery of hundreds of pounds of stolen explosives, federal officials said Saturday.
Four men were arrested Friday in connection with the looted explosives that disappeared from Cherry Engineering's storage depot eight miles southwest of Albuquerque earlier in the week, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.
Authorities didn't say what the thieves planned to do with the explosives, which was enough to flatten a large building, but they believed the theft was not related to terrorism.
A tip led to the arrests of Leslie Brown, 44, of Ignacio, Colo.; David Brown, 49, of Bloomfield; and Eric Wayne Armstrong, 32, of Bloomfield, who all face federal charges that include possession of stolen explosives and felons in possession of explosives, said Tom Mangan, ATF spokesman.
Authorities refused to release the identity of the fourth person arrested. A fifth person was being interviewed about the case, Mangan said.
"We're just being extremely thorough," he said. "The Browns were the principal party and so was Armstrong, and obviously everyone else is running scared."
Mangan said authorities "are confident that all the individuals that were involved in the theft of the explosives are in custody at this time."
The majority of explosives stolen — 150 pounds of C-4, 250 pounds of sheet explosives, 20,000 feet of detonator cord and 2,500 blasting caps — turned up in Bloomfield, though some of the material was found in Ignacio, authorities said.
Most of the explosives were found intact at a Bloomfield building, while the rest were discovered in Ignacio. It did not appear that anyone had tried to use the material, officials said.
In Bloomfield, authorities found numerous firearms, including high-powered rifles and sawed-off shotguns, Mangan said. They also discovered a chop-shop operation where stolen vehicles were disassembled and sold for parts.