Morrison man, Richard Sandberg, accused of trying to trade bombs for drugs, gets 4 years in prison

Sandberg pleaded guilty to firearms violations

DENVER - A 36-year-old Morrison man accused of trying to trade pipe bombs for cocaine was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison Monday for possessing unregistered firearms.

Richard Lawrence Sandberg was sentenced in Denver federal court to serve 51 months in prison after earlier pleading guilty to two counts of possession of unregistered firearms, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said. Judge Philip Brimmer also ordered Sandberg to serve three years on supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Sandberg was arrested at his South Swadley Way home on Jan. 24, 2013, after giving three homemade explosive devices to a federal undercover detective who was introduced to Sandberg by an informant, according to an arrested affidavit.

A search of his home by local police and federal agents revealed 28 additional improvised bombs, a shotgun, a handgun, a rifle and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, court records said.

Sandberg told the undercover agent he was willing to trade homemade fragmentation bombs with a 20-meter "kill zone" for drugs, the affidavit said. The explosives contained gunpowder, a fuse and shrapnel in the form of stainless steel ball bearings.

"Possession of unregistered destructive devices are dangerous not only to the person who possesses them, but also to others who live nearby," Walsh said in a statement. "Sandberg possessed these illegal unregistered devices in a residential neighborhood, putting many, including children, at risk. His prison sentence will ensure that neighborhood is a safer place."

The investigation began on Jan. 18, 2013, when an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was contacted by a Denver police detective who said a reliable informant knew a man named Richard "Rick" Sandberg who had several firearms, homemade pipe bombs and military hand grenades, the affidavit said.

The undercover agent called Sandberg and arranged to meet him at his home to work out a "deal" on trading narcotics for explosives.

Sandberg told the undercover agent he was a former "Special Ops Recon SS Marine Corps," referring to a Marine serving in a special operations/reconnaissance unit, the affidavit said. He claimed that he has been deployed to war zones in Iraq, Somalia, Africa and Pakistan.

However, his official military personnel file indicates that he was discharged after two years of service in 2005 as a lance corporal, and he was never deployed.

Sandberg warned that if law enforcement officer, "specifically ATF" agents, came inside his house to take his guns, "it would be a bad day for them and lots of them would die," the affidavit said.

At times during the fast-moving undercover investigation recounted by the affidavit, Sandberg veered into political rants about proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to ban assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines.

A "Fire Obama" sign was posted in a second floor window of Sandberg's home, and a red U.S. Marines flag was posted in the front yard at the time of his arrest.

"We are extremely happy with the outcome of this investigation," said Denver ATF Special Agent in Charge Luke Franey. "Our agents have dedicated their careers to protecting the public and preventing violent crime. This investigation is a great example of both."