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3Com Investor Charged With Threatening To Bomb Investment Firms

An Iowa man faces 15 federal charges for allegedly sending threatening letters and pipe bombs to coerce investment firms into manipulating the stock price of networking company 3Com.

Federal prosecutors charged a 3Com Corp. investor, who called himself The Bishop, with threatening to bomb investment firms if they didn't inflate the networking company's stock.

John P. Tomkins, 42, of Dubuque, Iowa, faces 15 charges -- 10 counts of securities fraud, two counts of mailing a threatening communication with intent to extort, two counts of possession of an unregistered destructive device, and one count of using a destructive device while committing a violent crime. A Chicago grand jury handed down the indictment this week in connection with a two-year securities fraud scheme that allegedly involved sending 17 threatening letters and two pipe bombs devices to investment companies as far back as the spring of 2005.

None of the securities firms that were threatened complied with the alleged demands, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

If convicted, using a destructive device during a violent crime carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison. Tompkins faces a 260-year sentence on the other combined charges.

Tomkins was working as a machinist at a Dubuque manufacturing company when he was arrested on April 25, according to an advisory from the U.S. Attorney's Office. He has been detained in federal custody in Chicago since then. Tomkins reportedly had been a substitute rural letter carrier who worked weekends for the U.S. Postal Service, but he was no longer employed by the Postal Service when the explosive devices were sent.

Prosecutors contend that Tomkins was trying to coerce third-party investors and executives to manipulate the common stock of two companies to trade at artificially high prices, inflating the value of Tomkins' investments in them. Tomkins allegedly bought common stock and call option stock contracts for 3Com and Navarre Corp., a publicly-traded multimedia and home entertainment company. The government contends he intended to sell the stock and sell or exercise the options contracts when the market price was artificially raised in compliance with his demands.

Tomkins allegedly sent a total of 17 extortion letters and two explosive devices, generally to senior executives at investment firms that traded in the national securities markets and exercised investment discretion over assets entrusted to their management.

The defendant allegedly sent out two packages that contained non-working pipe bombs. The firing circuits were not fully connected. The U.S. Attorney's office reported that if a partially disconnected wire had been connected to the battery in each device, the bomb would have exploded, causing property damage and serious injury or death to anyone near the explosion.

The indictment alleges that each package held a letter, saying in part: "[t]he only reason you are still alive is because I did not attach one wire." The letters also warned "if you decide you want to keep the people around you safe, you will do as I say." The letters also demanded that there be a rally in the stock price of Navarre over three consecutive days in early February and setting minimum closing prices that escalated each day.

The indictment also charged that other letters threatened violence, including death and kidnapping, if the price of 3Com stock was not manipulated. One letter allegedly included a picture of a company employee's home, along with a note that read, "Do you know who lives here? I do."

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