Feds in N.J. arrest former USD student who sparked bomb scare

A former University of South Dakota student from Essex County, NJ was arrested Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, on charges related to a January 2012 bomb scare in Coyote Village, a student housing complex on the USD campus.

Anthony Nicholas Gallo, 20, has been charged with transportation of explosive materials without a license or permit issued by the U.S. Attorney General. He appeared Dec. 5 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark, NJ federal court.

Court appearance

The Associated Press reported Dec. 5 that during Gallo's first appearance in a Newark federal courtroom that afternoon, attorney Steven Martino said Gallo did not pose a danger to anyone and questioned why, if he had posed a serious threat, federal authorities waited 10 months to arrest him.

"Anthony is a good kid, and we'll show what they (the government) are portraying him as is not what he is," Martino said.

Joyce Malliet, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, argued for keeping Gallo in custody, saying he was seemingly obsessed with building and detonating explosives and had bragged in graphic detail on Facebook about his alleged exploits.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk said he didn't have enough information on the case to make a decision, and ordered Gallo to remain in federal custody until a custody hearing could be held Friday.

Gallo, handcuffed and smiling at his parents in court, didn't speak other than to acknowledge to the judge that he understood his rights.

Currently a student at Bergen County Community College, Gallo had been enrolled at the University of South Dakota from the fall of 2011 until his withdrawal on Jan. 17, according to USD spokesman Phillip Carter.

According to the complaint, on Jan. 8, 2012, Gallo traveled to Pennsylvania with potassium chlorate and magnesium in a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, planning to cause an explosion. According to a release from Matthew Reilly, public affairs officer of the U.S. Attorney in the District of New Jersey, Gallo never applied for the requisite user permit or license that would allow him to transport chlorate explosive mixtures.

On Jan. 19, 2012, Gallo was admitted to the emergency room of a hospital in New Jersey for burn injuries from another potassium chlorate explosion.

Call from parent

On Feb. 7, 2012, one of Gallo's parents contacted officials at USD in Vermillion requesting that Gallo's belongings be packed and stored for either subsequent pick-up or shipment back to his home address in North Caldwell, as he would not be returning to the university.

Upon discovery of various unidentifiable chemicals in Gallo's room at Coyote Village by a resident assistant, law enforcement was alerted, and various incendiary mixtures and materials, including improvised thermite and red iron oxide, were recovered.

Campus police and the Vermillion Police Department, along with authorities from Sioux Falls, quickly appeared at the scene last January. A "bomb squad" vehicle was parked outside Coyote Village during the search of the room, and about 20 students were evacuated from the building as a safety precaution. Investigators left the campus shortly after midnight, Feb. 8, 2012, and students were able to return to their rooms.

Results of search

According to the criminal complaint filed against Gallo Dec. 5, law enforcement officers observed several items when they entered his room last February, including:

  • A modified ballpoint pen housing that contained "strike anywhere matches" and a substance later determined to be possibly a form of improvised thermite mixture, with steel balls embedded in the end of the housing, and wrapped in blue painter's tape. Improvised thermite is typically a mixture of iron oxide powder and aluminum powder and in an incendiary mixture. The combination of the mixture, and the "strike-anywhere matches" that could be used to ignite the mixture, could propel the steel balls as a form of shrapnel.
  •  A pyramid-shaped item approximately the size of a tennis ball made of gray duct tape with a fuse protruding through the opening at the top of the item. Law enforcement in South Dakota ultimately determined that the item contained approximately 500 match heads.
  •  A clear plastic bag containing ash remains that are visually consistent with burned improvised thermite mixture.

 • A modified cigarette box that contained a 9-volt battery to which red and white wires were attached, gray duct tape, black electrical tape, and a small piece of cardboard encapsulating silver foil object.

  • A wall poster appearing to be a hand-drawn image of, among other things, an arrow pointing down to the initials of University 1 on a platform, and cigarette package with word "DEAD," moving toward the platform.
  • A five-pound back of red iron oxide. While red iron oxide powder has industrial uses, it is also one of the ingredients of thermite, which can be used in in destructive devices.
  • A plastic bag containing powder of a color consistent with the color of the powder in the bag marked "Red Iron Oxide." This bag, however, was labeled to indicate it contained aluminum powder. Aluminum powder and red iron oxide are the only two ingredients necessary to create thermite.
  • Match sticks with the heads removed.

Law enforcement spoke with numerous individuals after the room search, including a childhood friend of Gallo's, identified only as "Individual 1." This individual stated that he had seen Gallo approximately two weeks earlier, and had exchanged e-mails with Gallo about making bombs, fireworks, or other explosive materials.

Facebook activity

A court-authorized search of Gallo's Facebook account was also conducted, revealing Gallo's obsession with explosives. At approximately 5:27 a.m. on Jan. 8, 2012, Gallo wrote, "about to drive to Pistolvania (sic) to blow up some sick s**t." Another individual ("Individual 2") responded, "whatcha gonna doo (sic)?"

Gallo responded at approximately 5:31 a.m., "400 ml kclo3+mg (potassium chlorate and magnesium)." Kclo3+mg represents the formula for potassium chlorate and magnesium, chemicals that when combined, can produce an explosion.

At approximately 5:32 a.m., Individual 2 wrote: "oh my."

Gallo wrote, at approximately 5:34 a.m., "yea in a pvc pipe." A minute later, he wrote, "its sickkk (sic) lol we gotta drive to like the middle of f**cking nowhere."  Individual 2 thereafter immediately responded, "hahah (sic) is it worth it though?"

Gallo responded at 5:45 a.m., "yea this s**t will blow ur arm off." At 5:47 a.m., Gallo wrote, "I (sic) gottsa (sic) goo (sic) tho (sic) im (sic) pistolvania (sic) bound!"

Later, at approximately 5:02 p.m., Gallo wrote, "… yoo (sic) that s**t we set off in pistolvania (sic) was NUTS." At approximately 5:09 p.m., Gallo elaborated, in response to Individual 2's inquiry, "my friend took a video ill (sic) show u wen (sic) he sends it to me. it (sic) def (sic) had more explosive power than a mark II fragmentation grenade it was sooooooooo loud."

At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8, Gallo posted that he had driven over 200 miles in three states.

According to the complaint, Gallo was admitted on Jan. 19, 2012 to the emergency room of a hospital in New Jersey for burn injuries from a potassium chlorate explosion.

On Jan. 24, Gallo engaged in an exchange on Facebook with another individual (Individual 3). In response to the comment by Gallo that his "face was half burned off," Individual 3 asked, "what did yu (sic) do?" Gallo responded, "potassium chlorate explosion … KClO3 (potassium chlorate) is a common oxidizer that they used to use in grenades back in wwdeuce (sic)."

Another student arrested earlier

Gallo is the second former USD student arrested with an alleged connection to the January 2012 bomb scare at Coyote Village.

Elan Haba, 19, a sophomore on the Rutgers-Newark campus in Newark, NJ, was arrested Feb. 7, 2012, and faces charges including theft, and possession of fireworks and a prohibited weapon.

A resident of North Caldwell, NJ, Haba was brought to the attention of authorities by officials from USD following the search of Gallo's room at Coyote Village.

According to the Associated Press, the USD authorities said that Haba had an alleged connection to the "student in question."

A dorm on the Rutgers-Newark campus was evacuated Feb. 8, 2012, while the FBI searched for further potentially hazardous substances relating to Haba, who has been released to his parents, the AP said.

If convicted of the charges, Gallo faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, Newark, NJ, credited special agents with the FBI – Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, with the investigation leading to Wednesday's arrest.

The Newark-based task force is composed of personnel from 30 federal, state and local agencies from throughout the region.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Both Gallo and Haba may also eventually face criminal charges from Clay County States Attorney Teddi Gertsma. When contacted by the Plain Talk Wednesday afternoon, Gertsma said she couldn't comment as the investigation by the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation is ongoing.

Plain Talk reporter Travis Gulbrandson and the Associated Press contributed to this report, specifically AP reporter Samantha Henry who supplied the Plain Talk with copies of court documents filed in New Jersey Dec. 5.

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