A Pennsylvania man, Marc Muffley, has been arrested by federal agents after allegedly attempting to carry explosives on a flight from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Florida.
Muffley, age 40, has been charged with two counts, including possession of an explosive device in an airport and attempting to plant an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft.
A federal judge has ordered Muffley to remain in custody pending trial because he is considered a danger to the community and a flight risk. Muffley did not make a plea at Thursday’s hearing.
The incident began when an alarm went off, alerting Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents that Muffley’s luggage contained explosives.
TSA agents summoned Muffley through the airport intercom system and asked him to report to the airport security desk, but he did not show up. Security cameras later captured Muffley leaving the airport. It was discovered that he had checked his luggage on Flight 201 en route to Orlando Sanford International Airport.
The FBI contacted the Carbon County Chief of Detectives, who confirmed that Muffley’s address matched the one on his driver’s license. Muffley was subsequently arrested without incident at his residence in Lansford, PA.
According to court documents, TSA agents inspected Muffley’s luggage and discovered, among other things, a round compound about four inches in diameter, wrapped in waxy paper and clear plastic wrap, hidden in the luggage’s liner.
Allegiant Air and Lehigh Valley International Airport have not yet commented on the incident.
Investigators reported that a safety bomb technician vetted the bag and found a powder wrapped in plastic, consistent with commercial fireworks, with a fuse attached to a circular joint. The bag also contained a can of butane gas, a lighter, a pipe with white powder residue, a cordless drill with cordless batteries, and two RCDs taped together with black tape.
TSA evacuated the immediate area around the airport and notified the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a precaution. Bomb technicians confirmed that the item was indeed a live explosive. The airport was closed for more than two hours and numerous agencies responded, including two bombers.
According to Colin Riccobon, the airport’s public relations director, checked baggage at Lehigh Valley Airport is handed over by passengers to the airline’s staff at the check-in counter and then turned over to a TSA agent for review. The agency told CNN that TSA agents screen about 800 to 1,600 passengers at the airport every day.
At Thursday’s hearing, Muffley’s attorney, Jonathan McDonald, argued that his client had been overcharged, saying the device allegedly found in Muffley’s bag did not meet the legal definition of owning or attempting to place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft. .
McDonald stated that the device was just the guts of fireworks and could not be detonated in any way. McDonald further argued that his client had no intention of harming anyone and only intended to set off fireworks on a Florida beach.
According to prosecutor Sherri Stephan, an expert who inspected the bag found an explosive, butane, a lighter and lithium batteries inside. Muffley also reportedly admitted to police that he knew the bag contained an explosive device. Stephan called Muffley’s attempt to check the bag into a plane “amazing.”
Muffley has a criminal history with several charges of possession of controlled substances, harassment and petty theft. Former Lansford police chief Jack Soberick, who had met Muffley in the past, said none of the incidents were indicative of radicalization or violent tendencies. Muffley’s previous arrests had made local news, including a 2017 arrest for battery theft.
Court documents show that Muffley failed to pay required fines related to several of his cases until December 2022, and prosecutors revoked his probation.
Stephan referred to Muffley’s past behavior at Thursday’s detention hearing, noting that he had “shown a pattern of not being able to comply with release rules”.