Man pleads guilty to putting pipe bombs at northern Michigan cellphone stores

(Photo: FBI)

A man admitted to placing bombs outside northern Michigan cellphone stores last year.

John Douglas Allen, 76, of Whittemore, pleaded guilty during a hearing Monday. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

MORE: Man placed bombs at cellphone stores because he was mad about porn, other 'immoral content'

Allen admitted that on Sept. 15, 2021, he placed a United States Postal Service box with black tape on it and a wire coming out of it outside an AT&T Store in Sault Ste. Marie. Later that evening, he placed another USPS box with black tape on it and a wire coming out of it outside a Verizon Store in Cheboygan. 

Officials said the two devices were examined by the FBI laboratory Explosive Unit, which concluded that the two devices were improvised explosive devices (IEDs), otherwise known as pipe bombs.

Both pipe bombs contained shrapnel and a note demanding $5 million. 

The boxes had "CMT" written on them. "Handcuff Johnny" was written on one box and "HJ" was written on the other. The boxes also said it was the "last warning" and the next time would be during "business hours."

(Photo: FBI)

Using surveillance video of the man who placed the boxes and footage from the Mackinac Bridge, authorities were able to track down Allen, according to court filings. A van captured on camera had a dealership emblem that helped lead investigators to Allen's home.

"The actions of this defendant could have resulted in significant bodily harm or death to citizens in the area," said U.S. Attorney Ison. "Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners and prosecutors, we were able to find and remove these dangerous devices before the defendant could cause serious harm."

Read more stories from around Michigan here.

Allen also pleaded guilty to placing threatening letters addressed to telecommunications providers at cell towers located in the Upper Peninsula.

The letters demanded that "telecommunication containing immoral content must be stopped," including porn and cursing. The letters also demanded a $5 million payment within 180 days, according to court filings. They were signed by the Coalition for Moral Telecommunication (CMT), an alleged group that claimed to reach 27 states, according to a photo of a letter provided by the FBI.

Allen told investigators that despite what the letters said, he was actually working alone and there was no CMT group. According to court filings, he said he had purchased the supplies to make the bombs about a year ago and had to work up the courage to actually place them.

Allen will be sentenced Nov. 9.

(Photo: FBI)