A Florida man's alleged plot to set off homemade explosives in several East Coast Target stores — part of what investigators said was a bizarre attempt to tank the company's stock — was foiled after someone he asked for help turned him in, prosecutors said Thursday.
Mark Charles Barnett, 48, of Ocala, was charged with "possession of a firearm (destructive device) affecting commerce by a previously convicted felon" after he offered an unidentified person $10,000 to put at least 10 explosives — disguised as food items — on the shelves of Target stores in New York, Florida and Virginia, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Ocala.
"Barnett theorized that the company's stock value would plunge after the explosions, allowing him to cheaply acquire shares of Target stock before an eventual rebound in prices," the complaint said.
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Barnett — a registered sex offender on probation for multiple felony kidnapping, sexual battery and grand theft counts — made the bombs at home and gave them to the individual, along with a bag of gloves, a mask and a license-plate cover, to complete the job, authorities alleged.
He showed the person 10 devices hidden in emptied-out containers of stuffing mix, breakfast bars and pasta, authorities said.
"Barnett told the [confidential source] not to let the box bounce around or they would explode," according to the complaint. He reassured the source that they wouldn't kill anybody, it said, but they would "take your hand off."
According to the complaint, the individual went to authorities on Monday and turned over the devices — thwarting the plan.
An explosives expert determined that the homemade explosives — 1½-inch shells stuffed with explosive powder, to be triggered by a battery — "were capable of causing property damage, serious injury, or death to nearby persons upon detonation," the complaint said.
Rocket motor ignitors, M-5000 explosives and batteries were found in a search of Barnett's home, according to the complaint.
If he's convicted, Barnett faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
Safia Samee Ali
Safia Samee Ali writes for NBC News, based in Chicago.