FRESNO, Calif. - Jon Smilanick, 36, of Fresno, pleaded guilty yesterday to possession of an unregistered firearm, a pipe bomb, in violation of the National Firearms Act, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez is prosecuting the case.
“ATF takes unlawfully manufacturing and possessing an explosive device very serious and the individuals who are in violation of the law will be heavily pursued,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Riehl, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “This case is a reflection of the excellent collaborative effort between the ATF, Fresno Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office.”
According to court documents, on January 9, 2013, police were called to Smilanick’s ex-neighbors’ home with the report of a bomb detonating. They found the remnants of a detonated pipe bomb. The ex-neighbors reported that they believed that Smilanick had detonated the device as they had had ongoing problems him.
According to the plea agreement, police obtained a search warrant for Smilanick’s residence and found bomb-making materials in the garage and a live pipe bomb in the house. Smilanick’s wife said that she had hidden the bomb because she did not want him to have it. While at the residence, another neighbor came by and told police that on two occasions, he heard explosions from the area of Smilanick residence and had once seen a man matching Smilanick’s build throw something over the back fence and then heard a loud explosion. Officers went to the area to which the neighbor directed them and found remnants of two different devices.
Smilanick admitted to manufacturing the devices. He referred to them as “firecrackers.” He said he had been making them since he was in the sixth grade. He said he taught himself to make pipe bombs, and that he had made three this year. None of the devices were registered with the National Registration and Transfer Record.
Smilanick is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on October 28, 2013. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.