When Greenbriar's Anil Puri celebrated the new year, he did it with a bang — and then some.
Not only did he build his own explosive devices, but he detonated them in Loudoun County, started a fire and ended up getting arrested.
Now, after pleading guilty last week in federal court, Puri, 30, of the 4200 block of Maylock Lane in Chantilly, is still in the midst of an explosive situation. He's facing a possible three years in prison for possessing unregistered destructive devices.
The incident first touched off local attention, Jan. 1, around 10:37 p.m., when Loudoun fire-and-rescue crews were dispatched to a spot near Braddock Road and Sousa Place, at an undeveloped subdivision under construction near Aldie. A nearby resident had called 911 after hearing a large explosion and then seeing a fire over the tree line.
Fire-and-rescue personnel from Aldie, Arcola, Middleburg and Prince William County rushed to the scene to investigate and, according to Loudoun's Department of Fire and Rescue Services, "remnants of several explosive devices were discovered." The Loudoun County Fire Marshal's office was then contacted to investigate further.
The trail led to Puri and — aided by Fairfax County police — Loudoun's fire department received consent to search his Greenbriar home. During the search, said fire officials, "numerous components that could be used to manufacture explosive devices were taken into evidence and removed from the property."
The Loudoun Fire Marshal's Office arrested him Jan. 2, charging him with four counts of manufacturing, possessing and using explosive devices. Meanwhile, the components were sent to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in Maryland for further analysis.
Puri appeared March 21 in Loudoun County General District Court before Judge James Hurd. At that time, all the charges against him were dropped. But the ATF's involvement in the case later ignited federal charges against the Chantilly man.
Last Monday, May 13, he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to possession of two unregistered destructive devices. According to U.S. Attorneys Patrick F. Stokes and James P. Gillis, who prosecuted the case, such devices must be registered to their maker in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
Before Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, the attorneys provided details of their case against Puri, had it gone to trial. "The defendant made the devices at his home by filling two glass bottles with a homemade, black-powder mixture which he had created from charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur," they said. "[He] added lead shot to the mixture in the bottles [and] fashioned a fuse from masking tape, knowing that the glue on the masking tape would help the tape burn."
Then, said the attorneys, Puri drove to Loudoun County and detonated his handiwork. "While seated in his car, the defendant used a three-foot rod with burning masking tape attached to the end to ignite the fuses on the devices," said the attorneys. "As the fuses burned, he drove off to a safe distance to watch."
After listening to the prosecution and accepting Puri's plea, Judge Lee set his sentencing for July 19. Puri could receive a maximum penalty of 33-41 months in prison.