Bomb suspect Miftakhov receives formal charge

JOHNSTOWN – After many months of discussion, prosecution and defense attorneys have agreed on a formal charge of manufacturing an explosive device without a license against a former Penn State Altoona freshman arrested after police found bomb-making materials in his apartment last January.

The criminal information has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

The suspect, 18-year-old Vladislav Miftakhov, who is incarcerated in the Cambria County Prison awaiting disposition of his case, is scheduled to enter a plea to the charge during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson on Aug. 19, according to court papers filed in Johnstown.

Miftakhov was arrested by city police in late January after a search of his apartment near the Penn State Altoona campus, initially because of a complaint that he was operating a marijuana grow operation, turned up bomb-making chemicals and information that he had set off explosive devices in a field near the campus.

The Russian native was at first charged in Blair County, but District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio turned the prosecution over to federal authorities because Miftakhov is not an American citizen and because his home is in San Carlos, Calif.

U.S. Magistrate Keith Pesto issued an order granting bail to Miftakhov so that he could return to California, but the prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen objected. During a second hearing, Judge Gibson ordered Miftakhov detained.

A special agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified that the devices Miftakhov built were powerful enough to injure and kill.

Kitchen and Christopher Brown of the federal Public Defender’s Office in Pittsburgh have spent since last February discussing what charges should be brought.

He was originally arrested for unlawful receipt, possession or making of an unregistered firearm/destructive device.

Both attorneys have now agreed to file a different charge of manufacturing an explosive device without a license, which took place between Dec. 4, 2013, and Jan. 24, 2014.

The charge says that Miftakhov “knowingly engaged in the business of manufacturing explosive materials, namely a flash powder mixture of potassium perchlorate and atomized magnesium, without a license to do so.”

Miftakhov could receive up to 10 years in prison, followed by supervised release of three years, and a fine up to $250,000.

The case was not presented to a federal grand jury.

Both sides agreed to the outlined charges.

At the August hearing, Miftakhov will be asked to waive his right to a grand jury indictment, according to Margaret Philbin, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.

He will also be asked to enter a plea to the charges: guilty or not guilty.

Brown, Miftakhov’s attorney, could not be reached for comment Monday.

There is no formal indication as of Monday that a plea agreement has been reached.

The prosecution throughout the case has charged that Miftakhov is a dangerous individual who set off bombs in California before arriving in the Altoona area.

He also allegedly sought out anarchist websites, according to an FBI examination of his computer.

The defense has depicted Miftakhov as a misguided teen who was experimenting, like many young people do, and who was attempting to produce nothing but fireworks.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.