A Florida man tried to redefine "activist investing" after he made at least 10 explosive devices with the intention of blowing up Target stores along the East Coast in an elaborate "scheme" to send Target stock plunging so he could buy it on the cheap, the Department of Justice alleged.
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.
According to the DOJ's compaling, Barnett, a registered sex offender on probation for multiple felony kidnapping, sexual battery and grand theft counts, hatched a plan to place explosives disguised as food items in Target stores along the East Coast from Florida to New York, thinking the plot would cause the stock price for the retail giant to plummet, allowing him to buy cheap shares of the company before they rebound.
"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" according to the criminal complaint.
To execute his plan, Barnett paid a man $10,000 to place the improvised bombs on shelves in Target retail stores along the US east coast. On Feb. 9, Barnett gave the man at least 10 explosives, a bag of gloves, a mask and a license-plate cover, which would be used to cover up the man’s identity, prosecutors 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."
But before the plan moved forward, the man went to the authorities and gave them the bombs and explained Barnett’s plan.
An explosives expert determined that the bombs were capable of "causing property damage, serious injury, or death to nearby persons upon detonation." It was not clear, however, if they would have also sent Target stock price lower.
A subsequent search of Barnett’s house by federal agents found rocket motor ignitors, M-5000 explosives and batteries were found. 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.
"The cooperation between the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved in this case was instrumental to quickly identifying this individual and resolving any potential threat to the public,” said Charles Spencer, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division.
Barnett is being held in the Marion County Jail for nine parole violations. If he's convicted, Barnett faces up to 10 years in federal prison; it is not clear if he will be able to daytrade Target stock from prison.