CTA bus mechanic charged with selling homemade explosives to undercover agent
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter June 8, 2014 10:10PM
John Hegarty (pictured), 34, a Chicago Transit Authority bus mechanic is charged with selling homemade explosives to an undercover federal agent. | Facebook photo
Updated: July 10, 2014 6:16AM
A Chicago Transit Authority bus mechanic is charged with selling homemade explosives to an undercover federal agent who said he planned to blow up a car and a restaurant.
John Hegarty, 34, allegedly sold about 700 “flash powder” devices to an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between August 2012 and May 2014.
“He admitted to manufacturing them in his garage in a residential area. The inherent danger is obvious to himself and his neighbors,” said Tom Ahern, a spokesman for ATF.
Hegarty could not be reached for comment.
Hegarty sold most of the devices to the agent in a Metra parking lot about three blocks from the home he shares with his parents in the 6900 block of North Osceola, officials said.
He told the agent he didn’t want to sell the devices at his home because many of his neighbors are police officers, according to a federal complaint filed last week.
The agent paid about $7,000 for the devices in six transactions, the complaint said.
Hegarty was arrested Wednesday on a charge of distributing an explosive device in furtherance of a federal crime of violence. He was released on a $10,000 recognizance bond.
ATF and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office launched their joint investigation in August 2012 after an informant approached ATF agents saying Hegarty detonated illegal explosives at a West Side party.
The informant — who faced an unspecified federal charge — was looking for leniency in exchange for cooperating with investigators.
The informant received a reduced sentence and $2,000 from the government, according to the complaint.
During the investigation, the undercover ATF agent secretly recorded his transactions with Hegarty.
In May 2013, the agent told Hegarty he planned to blow up a former friend’s car over a drug debt. Hegarty allegedly sold the agent a so-called “bunker buster” explosive capable of destroying a car — along with 150 smaller M-80 devices, according to the complaint.
“Any of the M-80s will take out a window or take off your finger,” Hegarty allegedly said. “If you really want to f--- up the guy’s car, I could talk to my guy and have longer fuses made, that way you can get the f--- out of town.”
Hegarty was pretending that someone else — “a guy” — had manufactured the devices, but after he was arrested he admitted making the devices in his garage, authorities said.
During the May 2013 transaction, Hegarty allegedly showed the agent a burn on his arm that he suffered in an accident with an explosive.
He also talked about guns, according to the complaint. Hegarty allegedly said: “I’m a gun nut, I like it all. I have everything from a Colt single-action Army to an SKS (rifle) with a 30-round banana clip.”
On May 20 this year, Hegarty allegedly sold the agent more than 300 illegal explosive devices, including five “bunker busters,” which are equivalent to a stick of dynamite.
The agent said he planned to tie several bunker busters together to blow up a Subway restaurant in an insurance scam and Hegarty allegedly replied: “Oh yeah, I got you.”
Hegarty told the agent the bunker busters would not explode until 30 seconds after the extra-long fuses on them were lit, according to the federal complaint.
He allegedly received $2,500 for that final transaction with the ATF agent.
Last week, authorities seized about 200 illegal explosive devices from Hegarty’s home along with 14 guns, about 1,000 rounds of ammunition and about 50 pounds of “flash powder,” officials said.