Wednesday, May 28, 2008

‘Survivalist’ produced explosives at home

Officials found large store of weapons, stockpiled food

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Investigators say a ‘‘survivalist” with a stockpile of food and more than 30 weapons and 230 pounds of chemicals was ‘‘rolling along” in producing explosives in his Gaithersburg townhouse when he was arrested last week.

When authorities searched the man’s home, they also found his 12-year-old son sleeping with a loaded handgun under his pillow and another within reach, county police said.

An anonymous tip about illegal fireworks led federal and county investigators to James L. Boka, 47, of the 9100 block of Turtle Dove Lane in the Charlene neighborhood off Goshen Road, officials said. He was arrested May 21 and charged with 11 counts of possession of a destructive device, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of weapon endangerment to a minor, according to a statement from county fire officials. He was released from custody the same day on $60,000 bond.

‘‘The amount of chemicals that he had in his house were a public safety hazard,” said Kenneth Korenblatt, battalion chief of Montgomery County’s Fire and Explosives Investigations unit. ‘‘...We were just glad we were able to stop this guy because he was already rolling along.”

Boka is not suspected of terrorism, Korenblatt said, describing him as a ‘‘survivalist.”

Boka could not be reached for comment. A woman answering the phone at his home Tuesday declined to comment. State property records indicate that Boka bought his townhouse in 1998.

A James Boka registered with an online Ron Paul county group described himself as a U.S. Navy veteran who has ‘‘worked inside Washington for 25 years in nearly every major agency, including World Bank, Pentagon.”

‘‘I have been aware of the plan to destroy the USA for many years now and I have grown tired of preaching the danger to so many people who do not want to hear it,” the profile continues. ‘‘...There is nothing more important to any American right now than to fight off the attempts of the New World Order and its puppet masters from destroying the last few pieces of the United States Constitution before it is too late. I want to help in any way I can so my son does not grow up in a fascist police state.”

Police are trying to determine whether the weapons found in Boka’s home – including handguns, rifles, machine guns, silencers, ballistic body armor and several thousand rounds of ammunition – were obtained legally, according to county police spokesman Lt. Paul Starks.

It is believed Boka, who was stockpiling food as well, legally bought the 46 kinds of chemicals online, Korenblatt said.

After receiving the anonymous complaint, an investigator conducting surveillance in the neighborhood observed a fireworks display around 9 p.m. on May 20, and then saw Boka walking out of a field toward his house with his son while carrying a mortar tube and a lighter, Starks said. The investigator questioned him and left after Boka turned over the items, he said.

The investigator returned to Boka’s home that night and saw him loading boxes of fireworks into his vehicle, Starks said. A loaded handgun was also in his possession, Korenblatt said.

The investigator again confronted Boka, who consented to a search of his home.

During the search, the investigator discovered Boka’s young son sleeping within reach of a loaded handgun and another under his pillow, Starks said.

Boka’s neighbors expressed shock about the arrest.

‘‘I was really surprised,” said Therese Provencher, 25, who moved next door to Boka with her husband about a month ago. ‘‘They’ve always been very pleasant, very nice, always willing to help us out,” she said.

An wish list registered to a Jim Boka from Gaithersburg includes books on homemade fireworks and rocket construction, disaster survival, UFOs, government conspiracies, military history and how to carry a concealed weapon. Other selections included a night-vision weapon sight and scope, a gun safe and an air rifle. The wish list begins with an item added in 2002 and mostly features products such as children’s books, DVDs and toys until late 2005.

‘‘All of a sudden he started to do this kind of stuff,” Korenblatt said.

Boka is currently unemployed, Korenblatt said. His computing services and Web design company, Pulsar Network Services, is no longer accepting new clients, according to its Web site.

Virginia-based couples counselor Chris Wright, a former client of Boka’s, was also surprised.

‘‘I can’t imagine,” he said. ‘‘Jim’s not that kind of guy.”

Those who met Boka when he volunteered with the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Agency, which assists with radio communications during emergencies, agreed.

‘‘He used to be one of the old stalwart members,” President Ben Acton said. Boka stopped attending meetings about a year ago, Acton said. ‘‘He just didn’t seem into it anymore,” he said.