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Feds reviewing Pa. student's bomb arrest

  • Article by: JOE MANDAK
  • Associated Press
  • January 27, 2014 - 12:50 PM

PITTSBURGH — The FBI and federal prosecutors were reviewing allegations against a college student from Russia who has been charged with possessing bomb-making and marijuana-growing materials, though police acknowledge the suspect told them he wasn't planning on "blowing anything up."

No federal charges had been filed against Vladislav Miftakhov by early Monday. The 18-year-old was arraigned Saturday on state court charges filed after Altoona police said they found bomb materials in his rented room near the Penn State-Altoona campus, about 85 miles east of Pittsburgh. On Monday, Miftakhov was in the Blair County Prison, unable to post $500,000 bond.

"Our office is reviewing the matter thoroughly and remains in close contact with federal, state and local investigators," Pittsburgh-based U.S. Attorney David Hickton said Monday.

Pittsburgh FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said the agency was "actively working alongside the Pennsylvania State Police and Altoona police."

Miftakhov doesn't have an attorney. Hollidaysburg defense attorney Bob Donaldson told The Altoona Mirror, which first reported the charges, that he expects to be appointed to the case.

Donaldson's secretary said he was traveling Monday, and he didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press. The lawyer told the newspaper that Miftakhov was "articulate, intelligent and focused on his education" when the two met for several hours at the jail on Sunday.

In an affidavit, Altoona police said they searched Miftakhov's bedroom after speaking with his landlord about possible marijuana growing there. During the search, police found a suitcase holding two containers with exposed fuses and other explosives-related materials, as well as a smaller "completed device."

"Miftakhov stated he was making 'flash powder' and was experimenting with different mixtures and how they would blow up," the affidavit said. Miftakhov told police he bought the materials online about three weeks ago and assembled them in his room.

Police said Miftakhov at first told them "he was going to blow things up," but he didn't specify what nor did police ask him to elaborate at that time, according to the affidavit. Under later questioning, Miftakhov said he had experimented with the devices in California, but never in Pennsylvania, and he had not planned on blowing up anything, the affidavit said.

"Miftakhov stated his intent was to set the devices off in a remote field and did not intend on 'blowing anything up,'" and that he was too afraid to detonate one of the devices he made, the affidavit said.

Miftakhov's roommate, Andrew Leff, told the newspaper Miftakhov was bored and impulsive but not dangerous.

Miftakhov faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 5 on charges including possessing or making a weapon of mass destruction, ricking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment and drug charges including, manufacturing or possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver it.

He has been given an interim suspension by the Altoona school, according to campus spokeswoman Shari Routch.

© 2014 Star Tribune