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Key Figure in N.Y. Bomb Case Described as Small-Time Con Artist

<i> from Associated Press</i>

The man accused of killing five people by sending bombs to wipe out his girlfriend’s family has a reputation as a small-time con man with big-time delusions. And a history of talking himself into trouble.

Michael Stevens fancied himself a slick-talking salesman, yet he was nabbed and imprisoned for running a coupon scam--in part because he fecklessly confessed.

And when he allegedly masterminded the vengeful plot to kill his girlfriend’s relatives, the alleged scheme fell apart just hours after the bombings because Stevens failed to realize the evidence would quickly point to him, authorities said.

“This guy was weird,” said Michael West, a former district attorney who prosecuted Stevens in 1987 for the coupon and telemarketing scam. “He was a few pickles short of a barrel.”

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Stevens, 53, and a friend, Earl Figley, 56, were charged in Tuesday’s bombings. Authorities said Stevens sent six bombs to relatives of his girlfriend, Brenda Lazore Chevere, throughout Upstate New York.

Three bombs killed Chevere’s mother and stepfather, Robert and Eleanor Fowler of West Valley, south of Buffalo, a sister and her boyfriend in Rochester and a co-worker of Robert Fowler’s in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga.

Another bomb injured Chevere’s uncle, while two others intended for two more relatives were defused or detonated by police.

A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Stevens apparently sent the bombs to get back at Chevere’s relatives, who wanted her to break up with him.

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Stevens, who lived in the Rochester suburb of Victor, and Chevere lived together and had a 2-year-old son, but the relationship was rocky and Chevere was thinking about breaking it off, the official said.

Figley apparently had a fierce devotion to Stevens, who persuaded his friend to buy 55 pounds of dynamite in Kentucky last summer, bring it back to New York and help him make the bombs, authorities said.

At Stevens’ trial on the telemarketing charges, Figley stood at the entrance to the courtroom and tried to intimidate witnesses as they came in to testify against Stevens, West said.

That trial had comical moments, West said. Stevens’ father frequently cursed and shouted “a pox upon you” at the judge, while his sister sat at the back of the courtroom and wailed.

Stevens spent a day on the witness stand and with virtually no prodding from the prosecution, confessed to bilking dozens of businesses that bought ads in a coupon book Stevens was selling by telephone, West said.

Stevens got caught in the scam because he began arguing with his partner in a motel lobby over who should keep their phony advertising contracts, West said.

The motel manager, who had the contracts in a safe, called police to settle the dispute. Police looked over the contracts, realized they were fraudulent and arrested Stevens and his partner.

Stevens served 20 months in a New York prison.

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