A Southern California man who assembled what may have been the largest cache of homemade high explosives in U.S history has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
George Jakubec must also pay $600,000 in restitution to the owner of his rented Escondido home, which was so packed with bomb materials that authorities had to burn the house down, and to the landscaper who discovered the "bomb factory" by literally tripping over explosive chemicals in the yard, injuring himself.
Under an agreement with federal authorities, however, the unemployed software engineer pled guilty to bank robbery instead of bomb-making. Authorities agreed to drop the bomb charges if Jakubec, a 55-year-old Serbian immigrant, would admit to robbery.
The cache of explosives was discovered on Nov. 18, when landscaper Mario Garcia stepped on something in Jakubec's yard and triggered an explosion that injured his eye, arm and chest. When federal and local officials came to investigate, they found eight pounds of the homemade explosive HMTD buried in the yard, and more HMTD inside the one-story wooden ranch house north of San Diego. They also found nine detonators and 13 unfilled homemade grenades with attached shrapnel.
San Diego County Deputy D.A. Terri Perez called the discovery a "bomb factory" and said it was "the largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives at one place in the United States."
Authorities decided to set the house ablaze rather than risk serious injury by trying to remove the material. A judge okayed the destruction after an FBI bomb technician testified that Jakubec's backyard was a "minefield" and that a bomb tech walking in the yard had stepped on something that made a loud pop and burned the bottom of his shoe.
"He had the makings of a bomb lab," said Perez. "He had precursors to making these explosives. He had detonators, he had grenades and so essentially he could make these destructive devices, and had completed several of them."
Federal authorities said the HMTD discovered had the explosive power of several of the devices used in the London subway bombing of 2005, which killed 52 people. Explosives experts found the HMTD in jars, and buried them in the ground to detonate them, closing the southbound lanes of Interstate 15 for about three hours for motorists' safety.
Authorities also allege they found PETN, the powder explosive used in the recent cargo bombing plot, by the failed "shoe bomber" in 2001 and allegedly by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the unsuccessful attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253 with an underwear bomb last Christmas.
Authorities also say they discovered dye packs and wigs on the property. Jakubec later admitted to a series of robberies in San Diego County between November 2009 and July 2010. In one robbery he wore a Halloween style old-man mask, while in another he sported a floppy hat and sunglasses.
According to court records, Jakubec was on probation after pleading guilty to shoplifting at an electronics store in 2009.
Jakubec faced three bank robbery and one attempted bank robbery charges, as well as charges of possession and manufacturing explosives. Though the bombmaking charges were dropped as part of his plea deal, Jakubec has admitted that he had explosive materials at his residence.