Florida Antigovernment Bomb Plot Targeted Tourist Center

Florida bomb plot targeted tourist center

Three people linked to a bomb-building neo-Nazi have been charged with conspiring to set off 14 bombs around Orlando, Fla., including several along the main access to Walt Disney World. The bombings were intended to serve as a diversion while members of the group robbed two area banks, authorities say.

Authorities arrested the three in May, at the end of a 14-month investigation that began when white supremacist Todd Vanbiber accidentally set off a bomb he was building in an Orlando area storage unit. Vanbiber, who pleaded guilty to explosives charges, is now serving a 6 1/2-year sentence.

An ATF official said that the arrests had averted a "major disaster."

After the blast last year, Vanbiber told authorities that he was building bombs as a hobby. But a cellmate later said that Vanbiber had told him that he planned to attack blacks and federal employees by setting off bombs at Independence Day celebrations. A lengthy investigation followed, culminating in the May arrests.

Charged with conspiracy, explosives, weapons and robbery-related offenses were Brian Pickett, a bank security guard who officials say was a member, like Vanbiber, of the neo-Nazi National Alliance; Christopher Norris, 25; and Deena Wanzie, 46, identified by officials as Vanbiber's girlfriend.

Pickett, 38, also is charged with three prior bank robberies, two in Tampa and one in Connecticut.

Vanbiber told officials that after robbing a bank in Danbury, Conn., he and Pickett drove to the West Virginia headquarters of the National Alliance, donating at least $2,000 to Alliance leader William Pierce. Authorities last year found a letter from Pierce that invited Vanbiber, now 29, to the Alliance's Leadership Conference.

Pierce has not been charged with any crime in this or other cases. But his infamous novel, The Turner Diaries, has been credited with being the blueprint for Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing, white supremacist Bob Mathews' 1980s robberies of bank armored cars and several other crimes.

Pierce has described his book, a romanticized portrayal of a race war and revolution, as a "handbook for white victory."