Three men arrested Saturday were charged with attempting to bomb two large chemical storage tanks in a plot to collect insurance money, investigators said.
Charles Edward Gresham, who had a lease on one of the tanks, was picked up in Maryland and accused of taking part in the alleged scheme with two men arrested in Arizona.The discovery Monday of six crude pipe bombs at a storage tank complex owned by Allied Terminals Inc., just 10 miles from Norfolk Naval Base, raised concerns of a possible link to the Persian Gulf War and terrorist threats by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The bombs, which were disposed of without incident, prompted companies in the region to increase security, but authorities have since ruled out terrorism in the case.
According to an affidavit, the FBI was told that the alleged insurance conspiracy would have netted a $1 million profit for the three men, with half going to Gresham, 57, who owns Applied Technology Inc. in Ellicott City, Md., where he was arrested.
"He was in arrears on the lease," said FBI special agent W. Lane Crocker Jr., in Norfolk.
The two others charged were Joseph Wayne Openshaw, 36, of St. Johns, Ariz., and Cecil Ross, 31, of Glendale, Ariz.
All three were charged with conspiracy to commit a bombing in furtherance of a mail and wire fraud scheme, Crocker said.
The arrests came a day after federal authorities said they had eliminated terrorism as a motive for the attempted bombing. Crocker said the investigation was continuing. He didn't rule out the possibility of further arrests.
The bombs were found attached to a tank that contained 1 million gallons of highly flammable methanol and a nearby tank owned by Gresham containing less volatile sodium sulfates.
The affidavit said Gresham had been trying for several months to dispose of about 2 million gallons of the sulfates.