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Man charged with explosive in luggage at LVIA

A Lansford man faces federal charges after he checked luggage with an explosive device and attempted to board a plane at Lehigh Valley International Airport, Hanover Township, Lehigh County, the morning of Feb. 27, according to charging documents.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Marc Muffley, 40, at his home later that day with the assistance of the Carbon County District Attorney’s Office, county detectives and Lansford and Nesquehoning police.

Muffley is charged with possession of an explosive in an airport and possessing or attempting to place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft.

He is custody in the Lehigh County Prison.

A judge has denied bail. During the court proceeding, held via videoconference, a defense lawyer reportedly suggested Muffley was carrying the items because he planned to set off fireworks on a Florida beach.

The judge responded Muffley knew the items were prohibited on a flight.

According to the arrest papers, the Transportation Safety Administration at the airport contacted the FBI for assistance after identifying what they believed was an explosive in a suitcase.

The rolling suitcase was checked in by Muffley, a passenger on Flight 201 bound for Orlando Sanford International Airport, at the Allegiant airline desk and a baggage tag on the case had his name, court papers said.

TSA screened the bag before it was loaded into the cargo area of the aircraft, and an alarm alerted officials of the presence of suspicious items.

TSA physically inspected the bag and found a circular compound, about 3 inches in diameter, wrapped in a waxlike paper and clear plastic wrap hidden in the lining of the baggage, arrest papers said.

TSA notified the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority Police Department, which contacted the FBI. Multiple agents went to the airport and examined the contents of the baggage.

An agent, trained and certified as a public safety bomb technician and in explosive device identification, X-rayed the circular compound and concluded it contained a granular type of powder consistent with a commercial-grade firework, court papers said.

The granular powder is suspected to be a mixture of flash powder and dark granulars used in commercial-grade fireworks.

The circular compound also has a quick fuse and hobby fuse. A fuse is the equivalent of a wick used to light candles. The quick fuse appeared to be part of the original manufacture, while the hobby fuse, which burns slower, appeared to be added, court papers said.

The agent defined the compound recovered as an explosive, which posed a significant risk to the aircraft and passengers.

That day, Muffley was dropped off at the airport 10:45 a.m., and TSA agents found the explosive 11:40 a.m. TSA paged Muffley using the airport public address system, requesting he report to the security desk. Security cameras captured Muffley leaving the airport 11:45 a.m.

FBI agents contacted Carbon County Chief of Detectives Jack Soberick, who knew Muffley and confirmed his address.

Agents later arrested him at his home around 11:30 p.m.

Portions of the airport were shut down for at least two hours, and a flight bound for Florida was canceled, according to passengers waiting for flights.