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Man Planned to Bomb Courthouse, Federal Agents Say

Crime: Defendant in fraud case hoped to destroy all evidence, officials say. He is held on charges of soliciting the murders of a Sherman Oaks couple.

September 25, 1997|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Undercover federal agents arrested a Sherman Oaks man Wednesday who they said plotted to blow up the entire Ventura County courthouse to wipe out his upcoming trial on charges of securities fraud.

Frank Boyd Cockrell II "wanted to have maximum damage at the courthouse to obliterate all the evidence in his case," before his Nov. 3 trial, said John Torres, assistant special agent from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"He wanted to inflict as much damage as possible," Torres said.

Cockrell was weighing several possible plans for destroying the sprawling, four-story courthouse in Ventura, including using military munitions and building and detonating a truck bomb, investigators said.

Federal agents arrested Cockrell, 49, at his Sherman Oaks home and held him at the Los Angeles County Detention Center on charges of solicitation to murder. They then spent the day executing a search warrant on the house.

The arrest resulted from a two-month investigation in which Ventura County sheriff's deputies learned that Cockrell had formulated a complex plan for destroying the courthouse, which is across a courtyard from the Ventura County Government Center.

Cockrell met twice with an undercover agent who was posing as a member of an anti-government militia group, Torres said.

The plan was for both men to kill a well-to-do Sherman Oaks businessman and his wife whom Cockrell knew, then take their money, jewelry and other valuables to finance the bombing, Torres said.

Cockrell gave the agent a $2,000 down payment for the murders--an act that gave agents enough evidence to arrest him on state charges and hold him while they prepare federal charges in the alleged bomb plot case, Torres said.

Cockrell was being held without bail Wednesday and will be arraigned in Los Angeles County, said Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Aveis.

But Aveis said that if Cockrell chooses to ask for a judge to set bail, he must do so in Ventura County courts, where his no-bail warrant was issued. He would probably be returned to the Ventura County courthouse for a hearing, Aveis said.

Cockrell was indicted on fraud and grand theft charges by the Ventura County Grand Jury on Dec. 11, 1995, after a two-year investigation by the district attorney's office led to charges that he had been swindling investors.

Times staff writers Scott Hadly and Jose Cardenas and correspondent Scott Steepleton contributed to this story.

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