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Explosives charges leveled

Feds arrest Sault Ste. Marie resident who was in possession of more than two tons of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mix, blasting caps

September 23, 2011
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - A Sault Ste. Marie man was in U.S. District Court in Marquette Thursday on charges of possessing explosives.

John Francis Lechner, 64, has been charged with possessing explosives while under indictment on other charges, a 10-year felony.

According to court documents Lechner was arraigned on Sept. 13 in Chippewa County Circuit Court and charged with felony charges of false report of a felony, false pretenses and assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer.

In addition, Lechner has been charged with being a habitual offender.

"Under the U.S. code if you've got pending charges you can't possess explosives," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Maarten Vermaat.

According to an affidavit from a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the Chippewa County Sheriff's Department received a call from a confidential informant that Lechner allegedly had a large amount of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mix.

The affidavit states the informant, who was cooperating with law enforcement and wearing surveillance equipment, allegedly helped Lechner move the material to a location in Dafter.

When ATF agents searched the location afterward, they found 83 bags of material, weighing about 50 pounds each - a total weight of about 4,150 pounds, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit further states agents also found one box of explosive boosters, two rolls of detonating cord and two boxes of blasting caps at Lechner's mother's residence in Dafter after obtaining a search warrant.

Lechner was booked into the Chippewa County Jail immediately following his arrest on Wednesday.

On Thursday Vermaat requested Lechner be detained pending his preliminary hearing in Marquette on Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Greeley granted the request.

Vermaat said the basis for the request was a danger to the community and risk of flight.

Lechner is being represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Paul Peterson.

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.



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