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A San Jose man who purportedly wanted to spark a civil war in the U.S. was arrested by federal agents today after he allegedly attempted to detonate a car bomb at a bank in Oakland, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Authorities arrested Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, for allegedly trying to bomb a Bank of America branch at 303 Hegenberger Road, federal prosecutors said.
The arrest was the culmination of an undercover operation during which Llaneza was closely monitored by the FBI’s South Bay Joint Terrorism Task Force. Prosecutors said Llaneza didn’t realize that the explosive device that he allegedly attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public. They said Llaneza was charged this morning with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against property used in an activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce.
He has already made his initial appearance in federal court in Oakland and is scheduled to return to court on Wednesday for a bail hearing. Llaneza faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the charge against him, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on Nov. 30, Llaneza met with a man who led him to believe he was connected with the Taliban and the mujahidin in Afghanistan, although in reality the man was an undercover FBI agent.
At the initial meeting, Llaneza proposed conducting a car bomb attack against a bank in the Bay Area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities said Llaneza proposed structuring the attack to make it appear that the responsible party was an umbrella organization for a loose collection of anti-government militias and their sympathizers.
They said Llaneza’s stated goal was to trigger a governmental crackdown, which he expected would trigger a right-wing counter-response against the government followed by, he hoped, civil war. The complaint alleges that Llaneza subsequently selected the Bank of America branch at 303 Hegenberger Road as the target for the attack and ultimately specified a spot next to a support column of the bank building as a good location for the bomb.
Authorities alleged that Llaneza expressed a desire for the bomb to bring down the entire bank building and offered to drive the car bomb to the bank at the time of the attack. The complaint alleges that Llaneza attempted to detonate the bomb by using a cellphone.
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