MacDill AFB’s EOD supports ATF in federal case

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Caleb Nunez
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 6th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight assigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, led a joint disposal operation along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, at the Avon Park Air Force Range Sept. 8-11.

In 2016, the ATF began investigating a prior convicted felon for the possession and distribution of commercial explosives without a federal license or permit, which is prohibited by law.

“As ATF, we’re tasked to do explosive investigations, criminal enforcement and assist in the disposal of any explosive hazards,” said Christopher Nicolussi, one of 48 ATF certified explosives specialists across the country. “We also respond to state and local authorities and assist them with any type of explosive-related hazard or criminal investigation as it pertains to federal law.”

After an undercover investigation, ATF agents confirmed the suspect was maintaining explosive fuses and flash powder in a storage unit in Sarasota, Florida, while selling them online. This led to the execution of multiple search warrants of the individual’s storage unit as well as his residence, which resulted in the seizure of approximately 7,700 pounds of explosives — the largest explosives seizure in Florida history.

“Once the investigation was finished and the evidence was attained, the case went through the federal court process,” Nicolussi said. “Once the case was completed, it became our responsibility to destroy some of the evidence related to the case, specifically explosive-related evidence.”

In this case, due to the large amount of explosives, the ATF Tampa Field Division identified the Avon Park Air Force Range as the best location to dispose of the 200 plus boxes filled with around 30 pounds of explosives each.

“The ATF can only dispose of these explosives in small quantities; maybe one box at a time,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin McGovern, team lead of the joint disposal operation. “The amount they seized would have taken them weeks to get rid of.”

This provided an opportunity for the ATF, MacDill AFB EOD, and other local and state authorities like the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department and the Tampa Police Department, to partner and train together on how to properly dispose of large amounts of explosives. The team also included the Florida Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigations, who aided ATF during the investigation process.

“Every time we support the federal, state and local authorities, we’re presented with a great opportunity to not only assist, but also network with these agencies,” McGovern said. “This was an honor to be able to work and train together, while accomplishing a mutual end goal. At the end of the day, the explosives were taken out of the hands of a convicted felon and unnecessary crime was avoided.”

In late 2018, U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced Marc Jason Levene, 57, to federal prison for possessing explosive materials as a convicted felon.