FBI Seizes Rockets, Radar Equipment From Suspected IRA Ring
BOSTON (AP) _ The FBI said the four people charged this week with developing rockets for the Irish Republican Army represent the group’s ″main cogs″ in efforts to build sophisticated new weapons.
Agents arrested three of the suspected IRA technical experts Wednesday, and later seized radar and missile parts during raids in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the FBI said Friday. An arrest warrant was issued for a fourth, who the FBI believes has gone into hiding in Ireland.
Investigators say the four were working for the Provisional IRA, the guerrilla wing of the nationalist group fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
The four face federal charges of conspiring to injure and destroy the property of a foreign government, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Among the items confiscated in raids Wednesday and Thursday on two apartments in Bethlehem, Pa., were 6-foot-long missile launching tubes and a videotape showing one of the suspects firing a rocket, the FBI said.
A raid on a house in Nashua, N.H., yielded technical documents on missiles and British helicopters, and a search of a house in Harwich, on Cape Cod, turned up enough radar parts and electronic gear to fill a station wagon, the FBI said.
″It appears quite clear that they were doing a two-fold operation: building a radar deliverance system, and developing rocket technology aimed at something - and the something appears at the very least to be British helicopters,″ said James F. Ahearn, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office at a news conference Friday.
Ahearn said the ability to manufacture radar-guided missiles would have added significant firepower to the IRA’s campaign against the British.
Arrested were Richard Clark Johnson, 41, of Nashua, N.H.; Martin Peter Quigley, 27, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland who has been living since April in Bethlehem, Pa.; and Christina Leigh Reid, 25, of Sunnyvale, Calif.
The fourth suspect was identified as Irish citizen Peter Eamonn Maguire.
″We do believe that the main cogs in the wheel, so to speak, have been identified,″ Ahearn said.
Wayne A. Budd, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said a grand jury is expected to consider other charges against the four, including violations of the Arms Export Control Act and aiding a foreign insurrectionary group, both of which carry prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Johnson and Quigley were being held by the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, respectively.
Johnson held a top secret security clearance as an electrical engineer for The Mitre Corp. in Bedford. Ahearn said there was no evidence that anything Johnson did at Mitre materially contributed to this case.
Reid was released on $10,000 bail Thursday, and a hearing was set for Aug. 8 to move her case to Boston, where Budd said he expects all three defendants to go on trial.
Ahearn said the arrests resulted from an investigation that began in 1981 and is continuing. He said the FBI decided to arrest the defendants on short notice Wednesday after they realized they were under surveillance.
He refused to say how they found out.