- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2005

HOUSTON (AP) — A man who told undercover agents he has “no loyalty to America” and compared himself to the leader of a Roman slave revolt has been charged with trying to build a bomb and sell it to an affiliate of al Qaeda, officials said yesterday.

Ronald A. Grecula, 68, of Bangor, Pa., was arrested Friday in Houston during a meeting with undercover FBI agents, U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby said.

At the meeting, Mr. Grecula indicated willingness to build and sell an explosive device that would be used against Americans, officials charged in court documents.

Mr. Grecula was angry at the government over losing custody of his children, with whom he fled to Malta. He met a confidential source in prison there while awaiting extradition to the United States on charges of kidnapping the children, then 10 and 3, in a custody dispute in 2002.

Mr. Grecula appeared in court yesterday but did not enter a plea.

A detention hearing was set for Thursday. Mr. Grecula has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

“The very first priority of this administration and this Department of Justice is to stop another 9/11 attack, and this is a success story in that effort,” Mr. Shelby told a press conference.

Mr. Grecula’s attorney had no comment.

According to a complaint, Mr. Grecula asked the confidential source to find a client for a large bomb he was willing to build and sell. He specifically mentioned al Qaeda, but indicated he would sell it to any such group. Negotiations continued from April to last week, the complaint stated.

Mr. Grecula told the source he could buy all the bomb components, including hydrogen chlorine, at a welding store, and that he was educated as a mechanical engineer and had experimented with alternative fuels and energy.

“If we had one of those in this room right now filled with hydrogen chlorine, this hotel wouldn’t be here. It would be a crater in the ground,” Mr. Grecula said during a meeting Friday with the confidential source and an undercover officer who presented himself as an al Qaeda agent.

At one point, Mr. Grecula compared himself to the Roman slave Spartacus, according to the complaint.

“He was tortured in prison, he was beat up, took his family, killed his friends, etc.,” Mr. Grecula said during the meeting, which authorities videotaped. “So, you could say in a way I am like a Spartacus. … So, that’s it, I have no loyalty to America.”

Mr. Grecula said he would be willing to build the bomb in exchange for custody of his two children. His estranged wife lives in Houston; efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.

The confidential source also told authorities that Mr. Grecula wanted help in hiring an assassin to kill his estranged wife. Mr. Shelby said no federal charges were expected to emerge from those accusations.

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