BILLINGS – A Wyoming man who stole over 500 pounds of explosives from the U.S. Forest Service has pleaded guilty to federal charges arising from the theft. Budd Nesius, a 33-year old resident of Wheatland, Wyoming pleaded guilty to possession of stolen explosives. He faces 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and 3 years supervised release. Sentencing has been set for December 4, 2014 in Billings before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters. Nesius is being detained pending sentencing.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker, the government told the court that in April 2013 in Red Lodge, the defendant knowingly possessed approximately 500 pounds of stolen explosive materials. On the weekend of April 26, 2013, Nesius met a female friend at the Yodeler Motel in Red Lodge to go camping. After picking up the female, the two drove into the mountains. At one point, the two of them split up and she returned to Red Lodge to get food. Nesius continued driving around looking for a place to camp and eventually drove down a dirt road and arrived in the area of a U.S. Forest Service (“USFS”) bunker which contained explosives. This explosives magazine/bunker is located several miles west of Red Lodge on USFS property. Nesius saw signs in the immediate vicinity warning of the explosives. Nesius later joined back up with the woman and told her that he intended to break into the bunker he found and steal explosives. Nesius thought he might be able to sell the explosives and make a little money.
The female parked at the bottom of the dirt road leading up to the bunker to be a “lookout.” Shortly before dark, Nesius walked down to the bunker and cut the locks with a pair of bolt cutters. Once the door was open, Nesius took one box of explosives and attempted to walk back to where his truck was parked above the bunker. Because the explosives box was heavy, he left the box there and returned to his truck. Nesius then drove down next to the bunker, where he loaded approximately 10 boxes of explosives into the back of his truck.
This amounted to more than 500 pounds of explosives and was enough to fill up the front area of his truck bed. Once he loaded up the stolen explosives, Nesius left the area and met the female back in Red Lodge. Nesius spent that night in a hotel/motel in Red Lodge.
Nesius left his truck, loaded with the stolen explosives, backed up against a wall at a local business so that the truck topper would not open. Nesius parked the truck in this manner because he did not want the truck with the stolen explosives near him and because his truck topper did not lock. Nesius also covered the boxes of explosives with a tarp to conceal them. The following morning Nesius transported the stolen explosives from Red Lodge to his hometown of Wheatland, Wyoming. Sometime thereafter, Nesius attempted, on at least one occasion, to sell the stolen explosives.
On or about June 7, 2013, evidence and information led ATF agents to visit Nesius’ home in Wheatland, Wyoming where they made contact with Nesius’ mother in the late afternoon/evening hours. Nesius was not home at the time. Nesius’ mother consented to let the ATF agents search her home and several other buildings on the property. No explosives or evidence of criminal activity was located. The next morning, however, law enforcement received information that a concerned citizen had discovered boxes of explosives abandoned approximately a quarter mile east of Wheatland reservoir. The explosives were approximately 15 feet off the roadway stacked in boxes. The responding sheriff deputies observed that the explosives had USFS stickers on some of the cardboard boxes and had been recently discarded there because the boxes had not been damaged by the weather. An examination of the serial numbers on the recovered explosives determined that these were in fact the same stolen explosives taken from the USFS in Red Lodge, Montana. The location where the explosives were recovered was approximately 35 miles south and west of Nesius’ Wheatland, Wyoming residence. After ATF agents visited Nesius’ home, his brother called him to tell him about the ATF agent’s visit. The defendant then told his brother that there were stolen explosives concealed on their family property in a travel trailer of Highway 34. The brother agreed to drive to the location of the stolen explosives and to load them into his truck to dispose of them. The brother then moved the explosives down Highway 34 and unloaded them on the side of the road in the middle of the night.
“This volume of explosives in the wrong hands is an obvious threat to public safety,” said Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. “Our office is pleased to have played a role in holding Nesius accountable for his dangerous and intentional decision to steal over 500 pounds of explosives.”
“We will vigorously pursue those responsible for such acts, dedicating any and all investigative resources needed in order to bring these matters to a successful conclusion,” said Ken Bray, ATF’s Resident Agent in Charge in Montana. “All the stolen explosives in this case have been recovered. The public can rest assured that this matter has been resolved.”
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.