- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Wyoming man told a federal judge on Thursday that curiosity spurred him to steal more than 550 pounds of explosives from a U.S. Forest Service bunker near Red Lodge last year.

The disclosure came as Budd James Nesius, 33, of Wheatland pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of stolen explosives during an appearance before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters in Billings.

Prosecutors say Nesius broke into the Montana bunker with bolt cutters in April 2013 and loaded 10 boxes of explosives into his truck, intending to sell them to make money.

Standing before Judge Watters in shackles, Nesius suggested that he simply couldn’t resist taking the material after coming across the bunker while looking for a place to camp.

“Curiosity got the best of me and I took it way too far, beyond being curious,” he said. “I took some explosives that didn’t belong to me.”

Authorities said Nesius drove the explosives to his family’s property in Wheatland, roughly 400 miles from Red Lodge, where he hid them in a travel trailer. Federal agents showed up there in June and questioned his mother about the case, but did not find the explosives. Authorities said Nesius then convinced his brother to dispose of the material.

The explosives were later found by an unidentified civilian about 35 miles southwest of the family’s residence, ditched off the side of a road.

Nesius denied a prosecutor’s assertion that he made at least one attempt to sell the material. Public defender David Merchant characterized Nesius’ actions as a crime of opportunity.

No plea deal was reached in the case. Nesius could face a maximum of 10 years in prison, three years’ supervised release and a $250,000 fine at his Dec. 4 sentencing.

Merchant said his client could serve two to three years in prison under federal sentencing advisory guidelines that would take into account Nesius’ criminal history, whether he’s accepted responsibility for his crime, and other factors.

Nesius told Watters that he has no prior felony convictions and before his arrest had been working in the oil fields of North Dakota and Wyoming.

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