- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2017

An Oklahoma man was arrested over the weekend after plotting to detonate a 1,000-pound bomb in a vehicle parked outside a bank — a plot investigators say was modeled after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Jerry Drake Varnell, 23, of Sayre, Oklahoma, was arrested Saturday following a monthslong undercover investigation that culminated in his attempt to detonate the bomb outside a BancFirst in downtown Oklahoma City.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Mr. Varnell made repeated statements during the course of the investigation saying he was angry at the government and hoped to start a revolution. In one conversation, he said he agreed with the Three Percenters ideology, an American anti-government movement that believes the federal government has infringed on the Constitution.

The court documents said Mr. Varnell had initially wanted to blow up Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., but eventually settled on the Oklahoma bank as a target, saying he wanted to minimize the number of casualties by carrying out the attack overnight when the building would likely be empty.

Authorities said the public was never at risk as Mr. Varnell planned the attack.

“I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell’s actions monitored every step of the way,” said Kathryn Peterson, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oklahoma.

As he worked to collect the material necessary to build the car bomb, Mr. Varnell was in contact with a confidential source working with the FBI and an undercover FBI agent who tracked his activities and provided him inert parts for the bomb.

After parking what he believed was a bomb-laden vehicle outside the bank early Saturday morning, Mr. Varnell drove several miles away from the location. He called a cellphone hooked up to the device that was supposed to detonate the device. When the bomb failed to go off, he called the number twice more attempting to trigger it.

That’s when authorities moved in and took him into custody.

Mr. Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building in interstate commerce. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The arrest comes as authorities are investigating a number domestic terrorism cases.

Over the weekend, authorities arrested a man accused of plowing his car into a group of people who had gathered to protest a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident and considering whether to bring federal charges in the case, including hate crimes charges. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday that the incident “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism” under U.S. law.

Meanwhile federal authorities last week also announced the final conviction in a case against members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and Aryan Circle, winning a 20-year prison sentence against the 89th defendant.

Prosecutors said it was the largest action against a violent white supremacist gang in U.S. history.

The 89 defendants were convicted of a total of more than 700 crimes, including one murder and dozens of other violent offenses. Drug-related charges were the most common, as authorities said the gangs’ white supremacist ideology had “taken a backseat” to criminal enterprises.

The gangs “terrorized” the region, said interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes.

U.S. Attorney John Parker said the prosecution had “decimated” the gangs’ presence in north Texas.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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