Florida man arrested in plot to bomb Target stores

Mark Charles Barnett wanted to cash in on cheap shares of stock, officials say

OCALA, Fla. – A 48-year-old Ocala man was arrested on allegations that he tried to plant bombs in Target stores along the East Coast, with hopes of capitalizing by purchasing cheap shares of the retail store's stock.

Mark Charles Barnett, a registered sex offender in the state of Florida, was arrested on charges of possession of a firearm (destructive device) affecting commerce by a previously convicted felon. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. 

"We took it very seriously," ATF Special Agent Daryl McCrary said. "We worked very quickly."

According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint that was released Thursday, Barnett offered a confidential source $10,000 to place improvised explosives in Target stores.

The source told investigators Barnett created at least 10 of the explosive devices, disguised in food-item packaging, which he delivered to the source last Thursday.

Investigators said Barnett asked the source to place the explosive devices on store shelves from New York to Florida.

They said he also provided a bag of gloves, a mask and a license plate cover to disguise the source's identity from law enforcement, the affidavit said.

"Based on the fact that his plan was to place these destructive devices in Target retail centers throughout the eastern seaboard, we wanted to make sure we very quickly conducted that investigation," McCrary said.

The source, who was previously convicted on felony burglary charges and is on probation, surrendered the explosives to authorities, officials said.

The source, who was not promised anything in return for his cooperation in the investigation, told his probation officer that Barnett wanted him to "place bombs in 10 buildings."

An explosives expert determined the devices were capable of causing property damage, serious injury or death to nearby persons upon detonation.

According to authorities, Barnett theorized that Target's stock value would plunge after the explosions, allowing him to cheaply acquire shares of stock before an eventual rebound in prices.

A search of Barnett’s house by federal agents revealed components consistent with those used to create the explosive devices, the affidavit stated.

News 6 spoke with Barnett's neighbors, who said they had no idea what he was doing.

"I feel very terrorized," said one neighbor. "I don't know what to say." 

"If he's plotting to kill a whole bunch of people as a terrorist, then yeah, put him away," said another neighbor.

Barnett was on probation for several felony charges stemming from a 1992 kidnapping and rape of a Charleston, South Carolina, math professor.

He is currently being held in the Marion County Jail with no bail.

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on ClickOrlando.com, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013. He is one of the station’s lead reporters. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.