PITTSBURGH — A college student from Russia was charged Thursday with possessing and making unregistered bombs using chemicals, fuses and empty carbon dioxide cartridges in his Pennsylvania off-campus apartment.
Pittsburgh’s federal prosecutor said investigators are still trying to determine Vladislav Miftakhov’s intentions, but said the charges were warranted because of the public safety risk the devices posed, even if the 18-year-old Penn State-Altoona student’s intentions were benign.
“These chemicals can be used to create explosive devices but mixed together they can be set off even by static electricity,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton told The Associated Press. “There’s a very good reason why they’re required to be registered under the facts we’ve charged him under.”
Miftakhov’s attorney did not immediately return a call for comment on the charges filed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Miftakhov, who previously lived in San Carlos, Calif., was arrested Jan. 24 after Altoona police, acting on a tip from his landlord, said they found marijuana-growing supplies and bomb-making materials in Miftakhov’s rented room near the Penn State-Altoona campus, about 85 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Miftakhov’s case was initially in state court, but local prosecutors said Thursday those charges will be dropped now that federal authorities have filed charges. A district judge on Wednesday had refused to lower Miftakhov’s bond on the state charges. After that proceeding, Miftakhov’s attorney, Robert Donaldson, told the Altoona Mirror newspaper that his client comes from a good family and has no criminal record.
“Once the facts come out, people will see a different side of this,” he said.
According to the federal charges, Miftakhov ordered potassium perchlorate and magnesium online, then mixed the chemicals and put them into the empty carbon dioxide cartridges.
Those “explosive precursor chemicals” can be used to create a bomb that is “extremely sensitive to impact, friction, static spark and heat,” the complaint said.
But according to the complaint — and Miftakhov’s previous statements to Altoona police — it’s unclear what he planned to do with the devices.