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May 17, 2012

For more information contact:
Margaret Williams
National Public Information Representative
(202) 268-3700


'The Bishop' Convicted on 12 Counts of
Mailing Pipe Bombs and Threatening Letters to Investment Firms

Following two hours of deliberation, a federal jury in Chicago convicted John Tomkins, the so-called “Bishop Bomber,” on 12 counts of mailing threatening communications and destructive devices.

The Postal Inspection Service’s hunt for Tomkins, who signed off as “The Bishop,” intensified in 2007, when his series of threatening letters escalated and he mailed two pipe bombs to investment firms. The bombs were not triggered to explode when the parcels were opened, and no one was hurt.

Chicago Postal Inspectors, led by Task Force Leader Gregory Popp, worked diligently to catch Tomkins, worried he would mail another bomb—this time triggered to explode as promised in his letters. The mailings were part of an extortion scheme to boost the value of investments he had in two stocks.

Expert testimony at trial showed the pipe bombs contained in each parcel were functional, even though the circuits were not fully connected. They were capable of exploding as a result of jostling or impact and causing serious injury or death. A letter that accompanied the parcels stated, in part: “BANG!! YOU’RE DEAD.”

Postal Inspector Phillip Steele pored over an estimated 180,000 records before identifying Tomkins, a one-time machinist from Dubuque, IA, as the likely suspect. This paved the way for Inspectors’ arrest of Tomkins on April 25, 2007. Court proceedings were delayed for years due to legal motions filed by Tomkins, who fired four attorneys and then took over his own defense. Postal Inspector Jason D. Weber acted as case agent.

Tomkins was convicted May 4, 2012, of using a destructive device while mailing a threatening communication, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years to a maximum of life in prison, a sentence which must be imposed consecutively to any sentence imposed on other counts. He was also convicted of two counts of possessing an unregistered destructive device, each of which carries a maximum 10-year prison term, and nine counts of mailing a threatening communication, which carries a maximum of 20 years on each count.

“It's one of the proudest moments of my career and a proud moment for the entire Inspection Service that we were able to stop John Tomkins before anyone was injured,” Steele said following the conviction.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 6, 2012. Tomkins has remained in federal custody without bond since his arrest on April 25, 2007, following an intensive investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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