Explosives Heist One of the Biggest in Recent History

ByABC News via logo
December 20, 2005, 6:55 AM

Dec. 20, 2005 — -- According to federal officials, the theft of 400 pounds of high-powered plastic explosives in New Mexico is one of the largest high explosives heists in recent history.

The material was taken from Cherry Engineering, a company owned by Chris Cherry, a scientist at Sandia National Labs. The site, located outside Albuquerque, had no guards and no surveillance cameras. It was the site's second theft in the past two years.

Thieves apparently used blowtorches to cut through the storage trailers -- suggesting they knew what they were after.

Officials say that the amount of stolen explosives would be enough to match the bomb that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and they do not know who might be responsible.

"We don't have any suspect," said Wayne Dixie of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "We don't have any leads at this point."

The stolen goods include 150 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and 250 pounds of thin sheets of explosives that could be used in letter bombs. Also, 2,500 detonators were missing from a storage explosive container, or magazine, in a bunker owned by Cherry Engineering.

"Believe me, this can cause a catastrophic explosion of unbelievable proportions in the right configuration," said Jack Cloonan, an ABC News consultant and former FBI agent. "So it's very dangerous. We have to find this stuff and find it now."

In anticipation of potential danger, officials sent an alert to federal buildings and courthouses in New Mexico.

"This is not stuff that you peddle around at the flea market, Cloonan said. "This is stuff that has specific use."