Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 at 02:24 PM
A New Yorker planted a pipe bomb inside a Home Depot store as part of a $2 million extortion plot, threatening to detonate similar devices in three stores on a major shopping day if he was not paid off, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The suspect, identified as Daniel Patrick Sheehan, 50, laid out his demands — and the consequences of not meeting them — in two ransom letters and anonymous phone calls to representatives of Home Depot last month, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
All the while, prosecutors said, he continued working at a Home Depot in his hometown, Deer Park, N.Y., on Long Island.
Sheehan wrote that he would "shut down all LI stores on Black Friday" — the day after Thanksgiving — if he did not receive the money, the complaint said. He aimed to do this, the complaint said, by detonating three devices packed with explosive powder and "roofing nails" in three Home Depot locations around Long Island.
To prove the seriousness of his threat, Sheehan crafted a 6-inch shrapnel-packed bomb and planted it in the lighting aisle of the Home Depot in Huntington, N.Y., forcing the management to evacuate the store Oct. 15, prosecutors said.
Sheehan appeared before a U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Thursday and was remanded without bail. Addressing the judge, Sheehan said he had not intended to harm anyone and was not a dangerous person. If convicted of the plot involving bombs, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.
The clumsiness of the proposal — at one point, authorities said, Sheehan lowered his demand to $1 million — belied the apparent sophistication of his tactics, such as his bomb-making and his ability to elude law enforcement for more than three weeks.
According to the complaint, Sheehan used a prepaid phone — paid for with cash — to communicate with Home Depot representatives and had tested a bomb similar to the one that he planted in the Huntington store to make sure the design worked. The FBI said he showed a degree of expertise in bomb making.
It was unclear whether Sheehan had obtained materials for the bomb — including piping, nails and a nine-volt battery — from the stores he threatened to attack.
In a second letter that arrived Oct. 22, Sheehan threatened to wear explosives to a meeting that he unsuccessfully tried to arrange in which he would pick up the ransom money. He wrote that he would be wearing "2 devices strapped to a belt and 1 to a neck chain that I will be wearing, wired together and attached to a 'deadman' switch in my hand," according to the complaint.
Law-enforcement officers traced the prepaid phone to a 7-Eleven store where it was purchased in May, and they used data from the cellular network to close in on Sheehan before arresting him Wednesday. He then admitted to the plot and its details, the complaint said.
A Home Depot spokesman declined to answer questions on the foiled extortion scheme.
"We understand from authorities that the individual arrested is reported to be an associate," a company statement read. "But as a general policy we do not comment on individual personnel matters."