ORANGE PARK, Fla. — A Florida man who claimed in online forums to have inspired terrorists in Australia and Texas was arrested after telling an informant how to build a homemade bomb to attack a 9/11 memorial in Missouri, according to a criminal complaint.
Joshua Ryne Goldberg, 20, was arrested and charged with distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Goldberg — of Orange Park, about 15 miles south of Jacksonville — began communicating online with an FBI informant in July, giving information on how to build a bomb using a pressure cooker and shrapnel dipped in rat poison, according to the complaint. Goldberg instructed the informant to place the bomb at a memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, commemorating the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the complaint says. No bomb was produced.
The complaint quotes the suspect as telling the informant: "Get FAR away from the bomb, brother. There's going to be chaos when it goes off. Shrapnel, blood and panicking ..."
Earlier this year, a federal agent traced online messages from someone claiming to have inspired a terrorist attack in Texas and a terror plot in Australia to an account in Orange Park, according to the complaint. The suspect told the informant he had been helping a jihadist in Melbourne, Australia, but lost contact with him.
Goldberg began trying to help the informant plan how to make a bomb, the complaint says.
"What weapons do you have brother? I can send you guides on how to make bombs if you need help making them," said a message cited in the complaint from an account linked to Goldberg.
Goldberg then sent bomb-making guides to the informant Aug. 19, according to the message traffic.
The next day, according to the complaint, Goldberg asked the informant what kind of attack he wanted to carry out on Sept. 11. "I was thinking a bombing," Goldberg states, according to the complaint. The informant, who claimed to be a student living near Kansas City, responds that he also was leaning toward a bombing.
Goldberg, claiming to be in Perth, Australia, said he thought a pressure cooker bomb would be the best option and suggested attacking a 9/11 memorial event in Kansas City, according to the messages.
Australian Federal Police confirmed they were contacted by the FBI. In a statement, the AFP said Goldberg will be charged with providing information online in an attempt to facilitate and encourage terrorist acts in Australia.
Two federal public defenders appointed to represent Goldberg did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. A judge set a Tuesday bail hearing for Goldberg.
According to Australian police, they interviewed a witness who said Goldberg was an "online troll" who liked to stir up trouble through hoaxes.
On Wednesday, federal agents served a search warrant at the home Goldberg shares with his parents and two younger siblings, taking the suspect into custody.
Goldberg admitted under questioning that he had provided the informant with bomb-making information and used the online aliases associated with their conversations, according to the complaint. Goldberg told agents that he believed the instructions would create a working bomb.
However, Goldberg claimed that he didn't intend for the Missouri attack to be carried out.
"In general, JOSHUA GOLDBERG claimed that he intended for the individual to either kill himself creating the bomb or, if not, that he intended to alert law enforcement just prior to the individual detonating the bomb, resulting in JOSHUA GOLDBERG to receive credit for stopping the attack," the complaint says.
The family lives in a two-story clapboard house on a big lot in a quiet neighborhood with huge live oak trees. The garage door was open Friday, and there were signs of younger children, including scattered toys and bicycles.
"We're not making any comments," Goldberg's father, Frank Goldberg, told an Associated Press reporter.
He refused to say anything about his son. "You guys know more than we do at this point," he added, referring to the media.
Ronald Hoose, 52, who lives two houses down from the family, described the Goldbergs as "a nice-enough All-American family."
"I've never seen him," he said of Joshua Goldberg. "I only knew about him because my grandkids played over there. He was reclusive and stayed in the back of the house."
Across the street from the Goldbergs, 59-year-old Chris Matsuki saw law enforcement vehicles swarm the house Wednesday. He said the Goldbergs were good neighbors who would help out with moving furniture and other favors.
"I would never have thought it, and I know it was a blindside to him, Frank, as well. He had no clue," said Matsuki, who also described Joshua Goldberg as reclusive. "It's sad for him and sad for his son."