Iowa Man Indicted In Pipe Bomb Stock Plot

An Iowa man accused of mailing pipe bombs to investment companies in hopes of driving up stock prices has been indicted on federal securities fraud and explosives charges, officials announced Wednesday.

John P. Tomkins, 42, of Dubuque, was charged in a 15-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury late Tuesday that also linked him to more than a dozen threatening letters, some of which had been signed "The Bishop."

The arrest of Tomkins on April 25 in Dubuque, where he had been working as a machinist at a manufacturing company, followed an intensive nationwide investigation by federal agents and police.

Tomkins' attorney, Rosalie Jane Lindsay of the Federal Defender Program, did not immediately return a message seeking comment left Wednesday at her office.

Tuesday's indictment replaces charges - one count each of mailing a threatening communication with intent to commit extortion and possession of an unregistered destructive device - filed in a criminal complaint at the time of Tomkins' arrest .

The indictment charged him with 10 counts of securities fraud, two counts of mailing a threatening communication with intent to commit extortion, two counts of possessing an unregistered explosive device and one count of using such a device while committing a violent crime.

The indictment came as no surprise. Prosecutors usually must replace a criminal complaint with an indictment to move the case forward.

According to the indictment, Tomkins bought stock and options in multimedia and home entertainment company Navarre Corp. and 3Com Corp. It said he intended to sell when his threats prompted the investment companies to drive the shares and options to artificial highs.

But none of the investment companies that received such letters complied with the demands, federal officials said.

The indictment said that, in all, Tomkins sent 17 letters and two explosive devices to investment firms that traded in securities markets.

Both parcels sent to investment houses contained pipe bombs whose firing circuits were not fully connected, the indictment said. It said that had the circuits been connected to batteries, the bombs would have exploded and might have killed someone standing nearby.

"The only reason you are still alive is that I did not attach one wire," the indictment quoted a letter sent with each parcel as saying.

"If you want to keep the people around you safe, you will do as I say," the letters said. They demanded a rally in Navarre stock on three successive days in February with minimum closing prices higher each day.

Tomkins has been in federal custody since his arrest.
By Mike Robinson