SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah man faces weapons charges after he was overheard making statements about a possible bombing at an Internal Revenue Service office in Provo.
"This was an individual who made comments indicating he could be a threat to the community," Loren Cannon, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI office in Salt Lake City, said Thursday as the case was unsealed.
Cannon called the arrest of Keith Max Pierce a success story for The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Utah.
Pierce, 34, said something about the bombing of an IRS office, the headquarters of Provo police and a local courthouse, Cannon said. A federal complaint says Pierce made the remark to an FBI source last November. There have been no bombings at the Provo buildings.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office said they couldn't detail the statement because Pierce hasn't been charged in any bomb plot. Instead, Pierce was arrested Wednesday on charges of selling an unregistered machine gun without a serial number.
A sting operation caught Pierce selling an AR-15 to an informant, according to a federal complaint. The rifle was fully automatic, meaning it worked like a machine gun. It also had an obliterated serial number. The sale was made May 28, court records say.
Pierce is being held for a bail hearing Monday in federal court in Salt Lake City. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney. No phone listing could be found under his name.
In the government complaint, FBI agent Steve Daniels said the investigation was opened when Pierce made a statement to a confidential source "in regards to bombing the Internal Revenue Service in Provo, the Provo Police Department and a court building" believed to be a local justice court.
After that, an undercover FBI agent met with Pierce six times leading up to the gun sale.
"I think it's what you're looking for," the complaint quotes Pierce telling the agent. "Just one thing, it's safe and on auto."
Pierce was quoted during an earlier meeting saying "the serial number is coming off. ... No way it's coming back to you."
He was charged with failing to register as a gun dealer, illegal possession of a machine gun and having a gun with an obliterated serial number. He is being held for a bail hearing Monday in federal court in Salt Lake City.
It wasn't immediately clear if Pierce had an attorney. No phone listing could be found under his name.
"He had the ability to traffic in illegal firearms, and was willing to do it," Cannon said Thursday.