A man from Pennsylvania, Marc Muffley, has been arrested by federal agents after allegedly attempting to bring explosives on a flight from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Florida.
Muffley, aged 40, has been charged with two offenses, including possessing an explosive in an airport and attempting to place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft.
A federal judge has ordered that Muffley remains in custody pending trial due to his being considered a danger to the community and a flight risk. Muffley did not enter a plea during Thursday’s hearing.
The incident began when an alarm went off, alerting Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents that Muffley’s baggage contained explosives.
TSA agents paged Muffley over the airport intercom system and asked him to report to the airport’s 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 bound for 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 at his residence in Lansford, PA, without incident.
According to court documents, TSA agents inspected Muffley’s baggage and discovered a circular compound approximately three inches in diameter wrapped in a wax-like paper and clear plastic wrap, hidden in the lining of the baggage, among other items.
Allegiant Air and Lehigh Valley International Airport have not commented on the incident yet.
Investigators reported that a safety bomb technician X-rayed the bag and found a powder wrapped in plastic consistent with commercial-grade fireworks, with a fuse attached to a circular compound. The bag also contained a can of butane, a lighter, a pipe with white powder residue, a wireless drill with cordless batteries, and two GFCI outlets taped together with black tape.
TSA evacuated the immediate area of 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 device. The airport was closed for more than two hours, and numerous agencies responded, including two bomb squads.
According to Colin Riccobon, the public relations director of the airport, checked baggage at Lehigh Valley airport is handed by passengers to airline personnel at the check-in counter and then transferred to a TSA agent for screening. The agency told CNN that TSA agents screen around 800-1,600 passengers daily at the airport.
In Thursday’s hearing, Muffley’s attorney, Jonathan McDonald, argued that his client had been overcharged, saying that the device allegedly found in Muffley’s bag did not meet the legal definition outlined in charge of possessing or attempting to place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft.
McDonald stated that the device was merely the innards of a firework and had no way of being remotely detonated. McDonald further argued that his client had no intention of causing harm to anyone and had only planned to light fireworks at a beach in Florida.
According to prosecutor Sherri Stephan, an expert who inspected the bag found that it contained an explosive device, butane, a lighter, and lithium batteries. Muffley also reportedly admitted to law enforcement that he knew the bag contained an explosive device. Stephan called Muffley’s attempt to check the bag into an aircraft “astonishing.”
Muffley has a criminal history that includes several charges for possession of controlled substances, harassment, and minor theft. Former Lansford police chief Jack Soberick, who had encountered Muffley in the past, said that none of the incidents were indicative of radicalization or violent tendencies. Muffley’s past arrests had made local news, including a 2017 arrest for stealing batteries.
Court documents show that Muffley had failed to pay required fines related to several of his cases as recently as December 2022, and prosecutors had moved to revoke his probation.
Stephan referenced Muffley’s past behavior during Thursday’s detention hearing, noting that he had “shown a pattern of not being able to follow the rules of release.”