Federal authorities arrested a 21-year-old convicted felon Wednesday after they found 14 homemade pipe bombs in his bedroom.
Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, acting on a tip when they made the arrest, said there was no evidence linking suspect Eric Lord Jeffrey with the white supremacists arrested last Thursday in connection with an alleged plot to ignite a race war in Southern California with attacks on high-profile minorities.
Authorities said, however, that Jeffrey had a swastika tattoo on his chest along with the letters "WP" for white power. Still, ATF agent John D'Angelo said, "There is nothing to indicate links with that group of people and we are not pursuing that lead."
D'Angelo, who is working on the case, said the agency believes Jeffrey was planning to sell the bombs for profit. He said "doodles" found at Jeffrey's house, including one or more that said "white power," also seem to indicate that he believes in white supremacy.
Police evacuated several houses on either side of Jeffrey's while the bombs were dismantled. Officials said each of the pipe bombs was strong enough to send fragments flying up to 100 feet.
Jeffrey is scheduled to be arraigned before a federal magistrate in Santa Ana today, D'Angelo said.
Last Thursday, federal agents and Los Angeles police arrested eight individuals on weapons charges, at least one in connection with what authorities said were plots to kill Rodney G. King, blow up the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and attack other prominent African-American and Jewish leaders.
Four of the suspects arrested in the series of coordinated raids last Thursday were from Orange County. Authorities said some of the suspects belonged to a white supremacist group called the Fourth Reich Skinheads, which was said to be plotting the killings to trigger a race war.
One of the suspects arrested last week had allegedly delivered homemade pipe bombs to undercover federal agents.
Jeffrey was arrested about 9:40 a.m. in the 1300 block of South Poplar Street in Santa Ana. Aside from the pipe bombs, detectives also found gunpowder and metal pipes to make other bombs, said Santa Ana Police Lt. Robert Helton.
ATF agent Jim Adamcik said police also found books in the home about satanic worship.
Adamcik said investigators believe Jeffrey was making the pipe bombs to sell. He said they do not know how long he had been manufacturing them.
"This guy just had a home workshop," Adamcik said. "He's lucky he didn't blow himself up."
Jeffrey, who was recently released from jail on charges of receiving stolen property, was being held in custody in Los Angeles Wednesday evening. Authorities said he was also wanted for violating his parole.
If convicted for manufacturing the pipe bombs, authorities said Jeffrey could face up to 10 years for each of the bombs. If prosecutors also prove that he made the destructive devices with the intent to sell, officials said he could receive 10 years more for each bomb.
"By my estimates, that's about 280 years," Helton said.
Jeffrey's arrest resulted from a tip to Santa Ana police Tuesday afternoon, but neither police officials nor ATF agents would talk about where the tip came from.
Santa Ana police received the tip that Jeffrey was making bombs at his house and called ATF agents to assist in the arrest. ATF agents, who said they were called into the case because federal laws are tougher on weapons charges, obtained a warrant from the U.S. attorney's office in Santa Ana.
Both police and ATF agents participated in the arrest at Jeffrey's pink home. Jeffrey's father, George, was at work, neighbors and authorities said.
Neighbors living near the scene of the arrest described Jeffrey as a youth who had frequently been visited by police and was in and out of trouble.
One neighbor suspected that Jeffrey was involved with drugs, but she said the neighbors were not aware of the pipe bombs. She said she had known the Jeffrey family for several years and added that Eric Jeffrey and his 18-year-old sister often went to neighbors' homes asking for dinner.
She said the family did not have a telephone and that the daughter would also go to neighbors' homes to use the phone.
Other neighbors in the largely Latino residential area said they were aware of Jeffrey's tattoos, but they said he never demonstrated racist behavior or made racial comments.
"He was nice," said Alex Ramirez, 17, sitting in his driveway across the street from Jeffrey's home. "He never insulted anyone."
The suspect's father was identified by neighbors as George Jeffrey, who was thought to have a job with computers.
According to court records in Santa Ana, Eric Jeffrey is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to comply with the terms of his probation stemming from felony criminal charges and traffic violations.
Jeffrey was arrested Aug. 31, 1992, in Santa Ana on a variety of traffic violations, including driving with a suspended license and expired registration and failing to dim his high beams, according to court records.
Records also show that his license had been suspended in April, 1991, for driving with an excessive blood-alcohol level.
A $10,000 arrest warrant was issued in September, 1992, for failure to appear on the traffic violations, records show. Jeffrey was brought into court on the warrant after he was arrested in October, 1992, on charges of knowingly receiving stolen property, including camera equipment and a car telephone, according to court records.
In December, Jeffrey entered guilty pleas in both cases. He was sentenced to the time he had already served and he was fined more than $800 on the misdemeanor traffic violations.
Later, he was convicted on another charge of receiving stolen property and sentenced to nine months in jail and three years of probation.
Jeffrey was released from custody in April with credit for good behavior and time already served, according to court records. Probation officials in May recommended revoking Jeffrey's probation and returning him to custody because his compliance with probation supervision was "poor," records show.
A no-bail arrest warrant was filed in June, according to court records.
* BAIL DENIED: Main suspect in alleged supremacist plot stays in jail. B1