Miftakhov pleads guilty in bomb case

JOHNSTOWN – Vladislav Miftakhov, the former Penn State Altoona student arrested in January for manufacturing explosive devices in his off-campus apartment, will serve 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervision under a plea agreement presented Thursday to U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson.

Gibson spent more than an hour reviewing the 18-year-old’s decision to enter a guilty plea to manufacturing an explosive without a license, a felony under federal law.

The judge repeatedly asked Miftakhov if he understood the implications of what he was doing.

By pleading guilty, Miftakhov will not only spend time in prison but also could face deportation to his native Russia.

His federal public defender, Christopher B. Brown, told the judge that Miftakhov has been in the United States since age 4, but the San Carlos, Calif., resident never became a U.S. citizen.

The judge told Miftakhov that a consequence of his plea could be deportation, but the judge said nobody can say one way or the other at this point.

He told Miftakhov that deportation is a subject that would require additional hearings in another venue but that he wanted to make sure the teen knew how his plea could affect his residency in the United States.

A person’s immigration status falls under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Miftakhov’s plea could carry with it other consequences affecting his right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury and the right to possess a firearm, Gibson said.

The judge addressed Miftakhov as he stood in Gibson’s courtroom in the U.S. Courthouse in Johnstown.

He was placed in federal custody in February after Altoona police, investigating a complaint about a marijuana growing operation, discovered a suitcase in Miftakhov’s apartment. In it, police found two explosive devices with fuses, one large and one small, as well as bomb-making chemicals, potassium perchlorate Chinese and atomized magnesium mesh, rolls of magnesium cord, fuses and 42 additional containers that had yet to be filled with the explosive chemicals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Kitchen said the FBI has concluded the materials when put together created a “flash powder” often used in pyrotechnics and fireworks.

In an earlier hearing, the devices that Miftakhov produced were described as dangerous to the point they could cause injury or death.

The criminal complaint indicated that a friend of Miftakhov’s saw him explode a device in a field near the campus, stating it made a very loud noise and left a hole in the ground.

Kitchen said that the chemicals used by Miftakhov were shipped from Minnesota to Miftakhov’s apartment where they arrived on Dec. 9.

Miftakhov, dressed in a white T-shirt, dark jeans and dark running shoes, was asked by the judge if he was admitting that he manufactured an explosive device. He replied, “Yes, sir.”

The judge ordered a presentence investigation and said he will impose sentence on Dec. 11.

The federal court has a tier sentencing system with different levels that carry with them recommended sentences.

The seriousness of Miftakhov’s crimes was aggravated because it recklessly endangered others, but he was given credit for admitting responsibility and the fact he did not sell or distribute his explosive devices, the judge said.

In the end, the sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term or 18-24 months.

The plea agreement that was struck calls for 24 months’ incarceration.

The maximum sentence Miftakhov could receive for the offense is 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.

Miftakhov’s mother, Eugenia, who lives in San Carlos, attended the hearing. His father, Valery, a business executive, was not present, although he had been in the courtroom during two previous hearings.

She offered no comment after the hearing.

The hearing Thursday focused entirely on Miftakhov’s guilty plea.

Each side will have the opportunity to sum up its opinions about the case during the sentence proceeding in December.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.