Two men who were angry with the IRS were charged Thursday with planting a powerful bomb that fizzled outside the agency’s building in Reno last week.
Federal agents said Joseph Martin Bailie, 40, had a gripe with the IRS and that the agency had attached Bailie’s wages. He enlisted Ellis Edward Hurst, 52, to help him with the plan and borrowed Hurst’s pickup to transport the bomb, authorities said.
Hurst, who had first been questioned four days after the bomb was found and denied any involvement, was arrested late Wednesday after admitting his role and identifying Bailie, according to a complaint filed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Bailie was arrested early Thursday. Both men were arrested in the Gardnerville area where they live, 50 miles south of Reno.
They were charged Thursday with attempted destruction of a government building and use of a destructive device. They each face up to 50 years in prison if convicted on both charges.
The bomb, contained in a 30-gallon plastic drum wired to a dolly, was found on Monday Dec. 18, in a parking lot by an IRS employee arriving for work around 7:15 a.m. About 60 government workers were evacuated from the building.
From the complaint, however, it appeared the men might have intended to target the building on Sunday evening, when it would have been empty.
The complaint confirmed the drum was packed with 100 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, the same ingredients used in the April 19 Oklahoma City bombing. That bomb weighed 4,800 pounds.
“We have nothing to indicate this was connected with any other bombings in Nevada or anywhere else in the United States,” FBI agent J.R. Hill said at a news conference.
If the bomb had gone off, it would have seriously damaged the building and cars and could have killed anyone nearby, agents said.
A safety fuse to the bomb had been lit and detonated a blasting cap, but the main charge did not ignite, Richard Stoltz, a special agent with the ATF, wrote in the complaint.
On Dec. 17, Bailie went to Hurst and “talked with him about blowing up the IRS,” the complaint said. “Hurst agreed with Bailie they would do this and then Bailie borrowed Hurst’s pickup truck and drove off.”
He returned 1-1/2 hours later with the bomb, the complaint said. They left the bomb at the IRS building around 5:30 p.m. Sunday night, the complaint said.
“Bailie took the device, wheeled it over and placed it behind an IRS vehicle,” Stoltz wrote. “Hurst further related that Bailie ignited the fuse and then as the two drove away, they heard a pop.”
Authorities would not comment on who built the bomb, nor on what led authorities to the men.
“Hurst related both he and Bailie had had difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service in the past,” the complaint said. Authorities declined to provide specifics of the men’s problems with the IRS.
After the bomb was noticed, it was dismantled by experts and samples were taken for analysis. The rest was taken to the desert and destroyed.
While authorities are concerned about simmering anti-government sentiment, authorities have said that no evidence linked the incident to any militia groups or three other bombings in the last two years.