Crime & Justice

Man who bid for border wall contract charged in Minnesota mosque bombing

Three Illinois men have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department in the August 2017 bombing of a mosque in Minnesota.
Three Illinois men have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department in the August 2017 bombing of a mosque in Minnesota.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department has charged three Central Illinois men with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last August.

Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 22, were charged with using an explosive device to damage the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, near Minneapolis. No one was hurt in the bombing, which exploded in the imam's office.

Interviewed by federal agents on Saturday, McWhorter said the three were also behind the attempted bombing of a women's health clinic in Champaign, Ill., in November.

It was Hari's idea to bomb the mosque, McWhorter told agents.

According to the affidavit, McWhorter said they "did not intend to kill anyone but wanted to 'scare them out of the country' (referring to Muslims) because they push their beliefs on everyone else." He told investigators the bombing was primarily intended to show Muslims "hey, you're not welcome here, get the [expletive] out."

Morris allegedly smashed in the mosque's window with a sledgehammer and threw in the explosive device, which McWhorter described as a "huge [expletive] black powder bomb."

McWhorter told agents that they and his stepson, 18-year-old Ellis Mack, also robbed three Illinois Walmarts and carried out a home invasion in Indiana.

The four are charged with possession of a machine gun, and the affidavit for those charges reads like the script for a Coen brothers movie.

Among its details is an emailed tip the FBI received on February 19 reporting a "possible terrorism threat," alerting authorities to bomb-making materials inside a suitcase and gray bag in a Clarence, Ill., shed.

The threat said, in part: "i am afraid someone will get hurt if someone doesnt do something i also sent something about it to the newspaper so if you just blow it off like you did that school shooter kid in florida the press will know you got a tip so you better check it out just saying you did screw up once... ."

Authorities followed the tip and found the bomb-making materials just where it had promised. But in his interview with federal agents, McWhorter admitted that he, Hari, and Morris had planted the materials on someone else's property to get them in trouble, and that Hari was the one who had sent the tip to the FBI.

It turns out that Hari has long made headlines in the farm towns near Champaign — and sometimes beyond.

Just last year, The Chicago Tribune interviewed Hari about his bid to win a federal contract to build President Trump's border wall.

You can see Hari's full vision – which he calls the Great Western International Border Wall — in this video.

Video

"The wall will be culturally significant," the narrator says, "a powerful architectural statement of the determination of the American people to defend their nation and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, Western culture and English language." (Hari's wall is clearly modeled on the Great Wall of China.)

"The wall exists to protect the economic rights of the U.S. population and to protect our way of life from people who have different value systems," the narration goes on, before concluding: "Build that wall. Make America great again."

The government's request for proposals asked that the wall be 30 feet high. Hari's is 56 feet high and features a 22-foot-wide road running along the top for walkers and bikers, as well as tourist centers at the wall's end points in Texas and California.

"We're probably the only ones who have submitted a proposal making it recreational," he told the Tribune.

The proposal came from Hari's business, Crisis Resolution Security Services, which sold emergency evacuation services at $3995 for ten years: "Consider, for the cost of a cheap handgun, you can cover your family each year." He said the company would evacuate clients from disaster situations.

The company's website lists the threats customers should consider, from a earthquakes to riots.

Hari admitted to the Tribune that he wasn't really an expert in constructing security barriers. "I have had some experience with it, but not a great deal," he said.

He did have experience, however, with being on the lam: "I was an illegal alien for almost a year in Belize," he told the newspaper.

Hari was convicted of child abduction in 2006 after taking his 13- and 15-year-old daughters to Mexico and Belize, apparently in fear that he'd lose custody of them to his ex-wife. He was tracked down, returned to the U.S. and sentenced to 30 months' probation, according to the Champaign News-Gazette.

And Hari was in the news again just last month, when he filed a lawsuit against the government, for competing with his food-safety certification business, the Bloomington Pantagraph reports.

Hari is now in federal detention, with his preliminary hearing set for March 21.

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