North's Injury Settlement Lost In Savings And Loan Fraud
By KENNETH DEAN
The 52-year-old man accused of "domestic terrorism" in a case involving the discovery of a string of explosive and incendiary devices found throughout East Texas in the past several months had a deep-seated hatred for the U.S. government.
Officials said the hatred began when he lost a fortune in a bank fraud case in the 1980s.
Threats to the U.S. Treasury, IRS and a multitude of other agencies coupled with the placing of 36 pipe bombs or Molotov cocktail devices in mail collection boxes and other locations led to the Wednesday arrest of Larry G. North of Henderson.
During a news conference Thursday morning, federal, state and local authorities said North was indicted Wednesday after his arrest on one count of unlawful possession of a firearm stemming from a March 23 incident in which a pipe bomb was placed in a postal collection box in front of the Laird Hill Post Office.
"We know he didn't particularly care for the U.S. government by some of the things written on some of the devices we found," Robert Champion, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives senior agent in charge of the Dallas region, said at the news conference.
When asked of a motive for North's actions, one official said the man claimed he was defrauded of a large sum of money by a defunct Henderson bank.THE SUSPECT
Larry G. North grew up in Rusk County and was called an "average Joe" by those who have known him for years.
But some said North's life changed when an industrial accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
North won a large settlement after the accident and placed a large portion of the money into the now-defunct General Savings Association in Henderson, officials said.
The president of the association, Mark Hale, was convicted of savings and loan fraud along with several partners in a land developing scheme that defrauded the bank of millions of dollars.
In a Tyler Morning Telegraph story from July 11, 1991, it was reported Hale was sentenced to a three-year prison term for his involvement in the scheme and was given a light sentence because he assisted in the investigation.
North was left to fight the loss of his settlement through lawsuits but never recovered the money from the bank.
Sources close to the investigation said despite North losing the money, he still owed IRS taxes.
Another point that seemed to rankle North was that former President George W. Bush granted Hale a full presidential pardon on April 18, 2006.
"We definitely know why he was mad, but we don't know what set him off in February to cause him to start planting devices," one official said.
Officials are looking into North's actions to see if he was connected with Joseph Stack, an Austin-based engineer, who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin in February.
Stack left a lengthy note blaming the agency for dissolving his retirement.
However, one official pointed out North did not have Internet capabilities at his home and seemed to be somewhat uninterested in technology, so they do not know how the two men would have communicated.THE ARREST
ATF, along with FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies, began surveillance on North and observed him placing a pipe bomb into a postal box in the Tanglewood Shopping Center at the intersection of East Fifth Street and Loop 323 Wednesday morning.
As bomb technicians raced to the scene to render the device safe and clear the area, other agents followed North around Loop 323 where he turned onto Corporate Drive and into the RC Airplane park just outside Loop 323 at U.S. Highway 69 North.
It was then the agents decided to make their move.
"We felt it was the right time to go ahead and take him into custody," Champion said.
But after arresting North, agents quickly learned there was another explosive device in his van, prompted the dispatch of another bomb squad to the arrest site and the clearing of the area of peace officers, who were gathering at the nearby Smith County Peace Officer's Building for the monthly luncheon.
Hours later, roads around the location were reopened to traffic while North was in downtown Tyler being questioned by federal agents about the case.
A day after the arrest, members of the law enforcement community again breathed a sigh of relief.
"These devices, over 30 in number, have caused fear in this community nothing short of domestic terrorism. The actions placed the community in fear of performing simple daily tasks like mailing a letter …" Brit Featherton, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, said. "This community has been plagued for months with, first, the church fires and then these incidents."
Champion and others praised the work of those investigating and responding to the devices found and said they were thrilled no one was hurt or killed.
North remains in custody at the Smith County Jail on the one count, but officials said they are looking at the case, and more charges are sure to be filed against the suspect in the near future.