A York couple has pleaded guilty after being charged with making explosive devices and mailing them to businesses as a way to get back at people they don't like, authorities say.
When federal agents searched the home of Christopher Gilberto and his wife, Cruz De Jesus Gilberto, they found a range of items linking them to the crime, including bomb-making materials and a typewriter they say produced threatening letters.
The search, done in March 2007, culminated a two-year investigation that began after a suspicious package was sent to a Ruby Tuesday's restaurant in Rock Hill. The bomb squad later determined the package contained wiring, a battery and a bottle rocket firework, court documents show.
Authorities now believe the Gilbertos were responsible for that package, along with three other explosive devices sent to banks and individuals around York County.
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Investigators say the Gilbertos would put names on the return addresses of the mailed packages, apparently trying to implicate people with whom they had disagreements. The couple sent a package to Ruby Tuesday's near the Rock Hill Galleria after the restaurant fired Christopher Gilberto from his window-cleaning contract, documents show.
"It is a pretty unusual case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Hagins. "For whatever reason, they got into arguments and fights. And they decided to scare the people and try to get them in trouble with law enforcement at the same time."
One of the letters indicated a device would be detonated at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport at 9:11 a.m. in March 2007, court documents state. After agents discovered the letter, they began what the U.S. Attorney's Office called an "exhaustive effort" to track down the senders.
The couple also mailed threatening letters to a South Carolina bank and the FBI office in Charlotte, authorities say. The Gilbertos address was 600 Daves Road in York. Both are legal U.S. citizens, according to investigators.
Hagins said one of the packages was sent to the Air National Guard station near the airport in Charlotte.
"Once that letter was sent, it did kick it to another level," Hagins said. "When you have these devices being sent, that's one thing. But when you have a letter saying a bomb is going to go off at an international airport, then you start looking to maybe something bigger."
Agents arrested the Gilbertos at their home on the morning of March 9, 2007. The couple faces up to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft, the manufacturing of an explosive device and two separate conspiracies related to mailing the devices across state lines.
The Gilbertos pleaded guilty last week to five charges in South Carolina and two in North Carolina.
A judge will issue jail sentences in about two months. A trial would have started in August, and convictions could have led to mandatory life sentences, Hagins said.