REI program leads investigators to arrest in airport bomb plot.
Investigators are crediting a loyalty program for leading them to arresting a suspected bomb-maker who dropped off an explosive device at an American airport. NPR reports Michael Estes was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on October 7, 2017, after his name was connected to a purchase of bomb-making supplies.
The item, described as an explosive device, was discovered at Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina on October 6 by federal marshals. While the item was disabled before it could explode, the focus soon turned to who dropped it off.
At two stores, FBI agents had images of the suspect making purchases, but no identifying information, as he paid cash. They also tracked him to a third stop at REI, where he purchased a backpack and spoon – the backpack was found in the nearby woods with bomb-making materials. At REI, Estes allegedly used his loyalty program number when paying with cash, ultimately identifying him to authorities.
After arrest, NPR reports Estes allegedly confessed to building and planting the bomb, but did not set it to go off. His goal, according to public radio, was to “fight a war on U.S. soil.”
Estes will face charges of attempted malicious use of explosive materials and unlawful possession of explosive materials at an airport. His case will continue in federal court.
He is not the first traveler to be accused of terrorist activity in 2017. In February, Adam Hayat was accused of leaving explosives behind at a hotel in Denver, Colorado. His case is ongoing in federal court.