HOUSTON — A man who told undercover agents he had "no loyalty for America" has been charged with trying to build a bomb and sell it to an affiliate of Al Qaeda, officials said Monday.
Ronald A. Grecula, 68, of Bangor, Pa., was arrested Friday in Houston during a meeting with undercover FBI agents, U.S. Atty. Michael Shelby said. At the meeting, Grecula indicated a willingness to build and sell an explosive device that would be used against Americans, officials alleged in court documents.
Grecula reportedly was angry at the government over losing custody of his two children, with whom he had fled to Malta. He met a confidential source in prison there while awaiting extradition to the United States for the alleged kidnapping of the children, then 10 and 3, in a custody dispute in 2002.
Grecula appeared in court Monday but did not enter a plea. A detention hearing was set for Thursday. He has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of 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," Shelby told a news conference.
Grecula's lawyer did not comment.
According to a complaint, 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 to any such group.
Grecula told the source he could buy all the bomb components -- including hydrogen and chlorine -- at a welding store and that he was educated as a mechanical engineer and had experimented with alternative fuels and energy.
Grecula said he would be willing to build the bomb in exchange for custody of his children. His estranged wife lives in Houston; efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.