BILLINGS, Mont. -- A Wyoming man admitted on Thursday to stealing more than 500 pounds of explosives he found in a bunker near Red Lodge while looking for a place to camp. The explosives belonged to the U.S. Forest Service.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters in Billings, Budd James Nesius, 33, of Wheatland, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of stolen explosives. There was no plea agreement.
“I guess curiosity got the best of me, and I took it way too far,” Nesius told the judge.
Nesius denied trying to sell the explosives, as the prosecutor alleged.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker said in court records that on the weekend of April 26, 2013, Nesius met a friend in Red Lodge to go camping. While he was driving around looking for a site, he went down a dirt road and found a bunker on Forest Service property. Signs in the area advised there were explosives in the bunker.
Nesius told his friend he intended to steal the explosives. He returned later with bolt cutters, cut the locks and loaded 10 boxes of explosives and 3,936 feet of detonation cord into the back of his truck, Whittaker said.
“Nesius thought he might be able to sell the explosives and make a little money,” Whittaker said.
Nesius took the explosives to his family’s property near Wheatland and hid them in a travel trailer. He tried to sell the stolen explosives on at least one occasion, the prosecutor said.
An investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives led agents in early June to Nesius’ home, where they visited his mother, who allowed agents to search the property. They found no explosives.
The next day, however, agents got information that a concerned citizen had found boxes of explosives abandoned east of Wheatland about 15 feet off of a dirt road, Whittaker said.
The investigation found that after the agents had visited the Nesius residence, Nesius’ brother, Chris, called Nesius to tell him about it. Nesius told his brother the explosives were stolen and asked his brother to get rid of them.
Chris Nesius drove the explosives about 35 miles away and unloaded them on the side of a road near a reservoir in the middle of the night, the prosecutor said.
Nesius confessed to the theft in a recorded interview with ATF agents. Investigators also connected Nesius to the crime through DNA evidence left by Nesius at the scene, witness testimony and electronic surveillance.
Nesius faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Watters set sentencing for Dec. 4. Nesius remains in jail.