Jacksonville, FL - An Orange Park man has been arrested for allegedly planning to bomb a September 11th commemoration event in Missouri.
The criminal complaint obtained by WOKV says 20-year-old Joshua Goldberg sent information on how to make a bomb to a person, who was actually a confidential informant. The intent was to plant a bomb that would blow up during a September 13th event in Kansas City, Missouri honoring the 9/11 attacks. Goldberg was allegedly instructing the informant to build a pressure cooker bomb filled with nails, metal, and other items dipped in rat poison.
While he initially denied involvement, the criminal complaint says Goldberg later admitted he not only gave the instructions, but believed the man he was speaking to would follow through with the plan. It adds, however, that his stories changed between saying he believed the bomb maker would blow himself up and saying that if the bomb was planted he was going to alert law enforcement, so he would appear to be a hero.
The investigation begins
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation starting after the May attack on the Muhammad art exhibit and cartoon contest in Gerland, Texas. Two gunman who attacked the event were shot and killed by police, and ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The lead investigator on this case says while he was researching the Garland attack, he came across Australian and UK media coverage of social media posts from prior to the event calling on an attack and posting a map of the building where it was happening. One of the gunmen in the Garland attack actually retweeted one of the messages posted through this account, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators now believe the account- which claimed to be run by a man in Australia- was actually run by 20-year-old Goldberg out of his Pine Road home in Orange Park.
A username also believed to be connected to Goldberg posted messages on a site commonly used by ISIS- including to previously post the names and addresses of US military personnel- to talk about himself. The message includes identifying as “inspiring the attacks in Garland, Texas”, saying “all who defame the Prophet (PBUH) must be crushed”, claiming to be working to plan others to “carry out jihad” in Los Angeles and Melbourne, and calls to “shoot up local synagogues when the maximum amount of Jews are praying”, among other things.
Conversations with an informant
In July 2015, an “FBI confidential human source”, or CHS, began using an online direct messaging application to speak with someone by a screenname allegedly belonging to Goldberg. The conversations started as the screenname believed to belong to Goldberg, AusWitness, expressing concern that the person who was supposed to do an attack in Melbourne had been arrested because of the post he made.
The conversation shifted in August, when they started talking about planning another terror attack. The CHS mentioned putting “some more irons in the fire” after AusWitness spoke about being concerned the Melbourne attack was foiled. A few days later, AusWitness starts talking about the “need” for an attack in the UK and his hope for an attack in the US as well.
“Hopefully there will be some jihad on the anniversary of 9/11,” AusWitness wrote on August 17th, according to the complaint.
By August 19th, AusWitness had indicated he would work with CHS on an attack, even asking CHS if he had any bombs ready.
Planning the attack
Conversations now shifted to the logistics of an attack.
According to the criminal complaint, AusWitness offered to send CHS guides on how to make bombs and offered as much help as needed. Another screenname, which the complaint says was tied to the AusWitness account, then sent links to five websites which contained instructions on making various bombs. The FBI Explosives Unit determined the information on the sites was accurate and could, in fact, be used to make explosives.
The next day, AusWitness started asking CHS about his plans, suggesting a pipe bomb at a large public event, but then determining a pressure cooker bomb “might be even better”.
CHS told AusWitness he lived near Kansas City, Missouri. AusWitness then sent the informant a link to the Kansas City Stair Climb, which is an event honoring first responders who died in the September 11th attacks through firefighters and the community climbing stairs. The event is scheduled for September 13th.
The conversations further include the account allegedly tied to Goldberg telling CHS how to get away with the bombing- like not buying all the materials in one place, concealing the bomb so it doesn’t attract attention, etc. In order to increase the lethality, AusWitness instructed CHS not just to put the bomb as close to the crowd as possible, but to fill the pressure cooker bomb with shrapnel and to dip the shrapnel in rat poison.
Tying everything together
The investigation involved linking all of these accounts through similar emails, IP addresses, emails, access times, and more. Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and other companies are all cited as cooperating with the investigation and providing records and histories on the different accounts.
The internet use was eventually tied to the Goldberg home in Orange Park. The criminal complaint says Joshua lives there with his family- including two elementary school aged boys- although at many of the times in question FBI surveillance showed Joshua Goldberg was the only person in the home.
Australian police came forward with information from a person identified only by his initials in the criminal complaint, who said he had online communication with Goldberg. He described Goldberg as an “online troll” and “proponent of radical free speech” who was behind some hoaxes and generally egged people on. The investigator says he included this information in the complaint in “an abundance of caution”, but did not make any determination on the credibility.
When Goldberg was questioned, he waived his rights and, initially, denied any involvement with planning an attack on the 9/11 memorial event. The criminal complaint says he later started admitting to operating the usernames in question, sending messages calling for an attack in Garland, and posting to the website commonly used by ISIS.
Goldberg then allegedly admitted to speaking with the CHS- and was actually doing so when law enforcement got to his home- and said he did give CHS information on how to manufacture a bomb. The criminal complaint says he also admitted to telling CHS how to make the bomb more lethal and instructing him to plant it at the Kansas City event.
He further said he believed the information would be used to make “a genuine bomb” and “he believed that the individual did intend to create functioning bombs and would actually attempt to use them to kill and injure persons”, according to the criminal complaint.
When explaining his actions, investigators say he had varying stories. In one, he claimed he believed the person building the bomb would kill himself while putting it together. If that didn’t happen, Goldberg allegedly said he would alert law enforcement before detonation and then “receive credit for stopping the attack.” The criminal complaint does not list any clear motive for why he provided the bombing instructions.
Based on this criminal complaint, a federal judge in Jacksonville found probable cause for Goldberg’s arrest for distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.
If convicted, the US Attorney’s Office says Goldberg could face 20 years in prison. Goldberg is being temporary held until a detention and preliminary hearing on Tuesday, September 15th at 2pm.