Bomb suspect to stay jailed until hearing

February 12, 1991|By Sheridan Lyons AB : Michael Ollove of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

A federal magistrate ordered yesterday that a Ellicott City man remain in jail until a bail hearing tomorrow on charges that he plotted with at least two other men to blow up fuel and chemical tanks in Norfolk, Va., last week and collect the insurance money.

After federal prosecutors said they needed more time to prepare for the hearing, Magistrate Paul M. Rosenberg ordered Charles Edward Gresham Jr. held for another 48 hours. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ira L. Oring said the government wanted bail denied because Mr. Gresham was dangerous and likely to flee, and because it might have to bring in witnesses from out of state.

Mr. Gresham, 57, of the 3800 block of Spring Meadow Drive was arrested by the FBI at his home Saturday and charged with mail fraud and wire fraud in the alleged plot to blow up two storage tanks about 10 miles from the huge U.S. naval base in Norfolk. Mr. Gresham owed the storage tank firm more than $66,000, and the FBI alleges that he tried to get someone to blow up the tanks and collect the insurance.

Also arrested were Joseph Wayne Openshaw, 36, and Cecil Ross, 31, of Arizona. A U.S. magistrate in Phoenix yesterday ordered the two men held pending a preliminary hearing Friday and more questioning.

Mr. Gresham looked disheveled and dejected as he entered the courtroom, apparently wearing the same khaki slacks and jacket and maroon plaid shirt that he wore when he was arrested Saturday. He only answered "Yes, your honor" in a low, hoarse voice several times as his rights were explained.

Defense attorney Joshua R. Treem, who met Mr. Gresham for the first time yesterday, said FBI agents had interviewed his client several times last week before his arrest and had given him a lie detector test without an attorney present.

He said he had not seen the statements Mr. Gresham made during his polygraph examination. The government has also sealed the results of a search of Mr. Gresham's Ellicott City home, apparently because the investigation is continuing.

Mr. Gresham founded Applied Technology Inc. and is a former professor and vice president of the University of Baltimore. He later taught business at Towson State University. He was addressed often as "Dr. Gresham" at yesterday's brief hearing, apparently in recognition of his doctorate in education.

Employees of the company that operated the chemical tanks discovered six crude pipe bombs on the tanks Feb. 4.

According to an FBI affidavit made public yesterday, a pipe bomb was found attached to a half-million gallon tank of methanol, a volatile fuel, at the Allied Terminals Inc. marine fuel and chemical storage facility in Norfolk. Further investigation turned up more complex pipe bombs at a second tank of sodium hydrosulfide.

The bombs failed to detonate "only because of a faulty fuse," according to the affidavit.

After widespread publicity about possible terrorism, an informant told FBI agents in Norfolk that he had been approached by Mr. Gresham to "do a job" on the two tanks for the insurance money and had been provided with a map of the storage facility, according to the FBI affidavit. The informant said Mr. Gresham had talked about dumping the chemical at sea, according to the affidavit, complaining about paying more than $16,000 in monthly rent for chemicals he had been unable to sell.

In December, Mr. Gresham contacted a Norfolk insurance agent to increase his coverage to $2.7 million, saying he had a buyer in China, the affidavit says.

In January, the FBI said, Mr. Gresham ended contact with the informant and began the alleged conspiracy with the two Arizona men, Mr. Openshaw and Mr. Ross. Both men provided details of the scheme, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Gresham, a 1958 graduate of the University of Baltimore, returned to the school as an assistant professor in the business school in 1970. Two years later, he was named vice president for development and alumni affairs, a job he held 1982.

Citing confidentiality, university officials refused to discuss the reasons for Mr. Gresham's resignation. H. Mebane Turner, the university's president, had no comment.

In 1982, Mr. Gresham joined the faculty of Towson State University in the school of business and economics. According to William Brown, a professor of management at Towson State, Mr. Gresham was hired for his fund-raising abilities but decided he didn't want to be involved in raising money. Soon after, the university dropped Mr. Gresham from its tenure track.

At the time, Dr. Brown said, Towson was pursuing national accreditation for its business school, which required the school to hire faculty members who themselves had graduated from accredited universities. Towson decided that Mr. Gresham's doctorate in education, which he earned from California Western University, an "independent study" university, did not measure up to its toughened standards. As a result, after Mr. Gresham's first year at Towson, his contract was not renewed.

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