Federal Investigators Probe High-Tech Explosives Theft

ByABC News via logo
December 19, 2005, 2:28 PM

Dec. 19, 2005 — -- Officials are investigating the theft of 400 pounds of high-powered plastic explosives in New Mexico. The material was stolen from a bunker owned by a bomb expert who works at a national research lab outside Albuquerque, N.M.

ABC News has been told it's one of the most significant thefts of high-power explosives ever in the United States.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed today they are investigating the large theft from Cherry Engineering, a company owned by Chris Cherry, a scientist at Sandia National Labs.

The theft was discovered Sunday night by local authorities. The thieves used blowtorches to cut through thick steel walls at the bunker, authorities told ABC News.

The missing 400 pounds of explosives includes 150 pounds of what is known as C-4 plastic, or "sheet explosive," which can be shaped and molded and is often used by terrorists and military operatives.

"It is a very dangerous material, we want to keep this off the streets," Cherry told ABC News.

Also, 2,500 detonators were missing from a storage explosive container, or magazine, in a bunker owned by Cherry Engineering.

Authorities have no leads in the theft and said there is no indication terrorism is involved.

The theft is one of the largest reported cases from a facility in the United States in the last decade ending 2004. During that time, a total of about 1,000 pounds was reported stolen from government facilities in 14 reported incidents. It is unknown whether there is any connection to terrorism.

A special agent at ATF said the incident was unusual because such high-powered material was targeted.

The missing material could potentially make numerous bombs.