Relatives of a West Bloomfield Township man were tearful Thursday as the father of four appeared in federal court on allegations he attempted to illegally obtain and manufacture explosive materials.
Alaa Manuel Qasawa was arrested Wednesday after the FBI raided his home and the Tubby’s sub shop he owns in Lake Orion.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Laurie Michelson scheduled a detention hearing for 1 p.m. Monday. Until then, Qasawa will remain in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy told Michelson that more than 100 items were taken from Qasawa’s home, including computer evidence, when the search warrant was executed Wednesday.
A criminal complaint unsealed Thursday charges Qasawa with violating federal laws by seeking to obtain stolen explosive material — including fuses and grenades — and manufacture the materials without a license.
In a federal affidavit, FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Jacobs alleged a “cooperating witness” spoke with Qasawa, a self-described collector, on various occasions between Aug. 3 and Aug. 23.
Mitch Ribitwer, an attorney repressing Qasawa, said his client is a collector who makes replicas and has “no evil intent.”
“It’s a hobby,” Ribitwer said Thursday, adding Qasawa’s wife of 21 years is “distraught, upset and concerned.”
However, as the Oakland Press reports, it certainly looks like Mr. Qasawa was trying to manufacture live grenades, and quite a few of them:
Agents concluded from the calls that Qasawa already possessed explosives, including an M228 — which is a pyrotechnic delay igniting fuse used in conjunction with an M69 grenade body — and was in need of blasting caps without holes, or he was attempting to build a fully functional M228 fuse assembly.
On Aug. 23, the witness made another FBI-monitored call to Qasawa, letting him know the shipment was ready but that the witness wanted to make sure the items being sent were correct. The witness offered to sell Qasawa an entire grenade assembly, which are illegal to sell to the public.
Qasawa agreed to pay $25 for the assembly. Qasawa also asked for blasting caps to go with the M228 fuse. The witness said they were hard to get. They discussed how the grenade would be handled and shipped. Qasawa asked if the witness could get four or five a month, and the witness said he would try.
The FBI said they concluded Qasawa — who is not licensed to have explosives by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office — is attempting to manufacture explosive devices.
Court officials with the Eastern District Court in Detroit expected Qasawa would be arraigned this week.
Four or five live grenades per month is quite a hobby habit, now isn't it? It will certainly be interesting to see how this particular case develops.