A New Jersey pharmacist arrested by the FBI last year on apparent drug-related charges admitted Thursday he was actually trying to produce ricin and had been stockpiling guns and body armor.
Jordan Gonzalez, 34, who also had an apartment on 161st Street in Manhattan, admitted he was plotting to develop toxic weapons and had ordered many of the ingredients online.
Gonzalez, wearing a green prison jumpsuit in court Thursday, insisted he had no plans to attack anyone but was stockpiling the items for the future. "There was no present intent to use them," he said.
In November, FBI agents raided his properties in Jersey City and Manhattan. At the time, investigators said Gonzalez was trying to build an illegal drug lab.
During the November raids, heavily armed federal agents were seen at his Jersey City property, and a full city block was shut down for hours as items were removed from his home.
Prosecutors say he purchased thousands of seeds containing ricin and abrin between September 2011 and March 2013, as well as the materials to extract the toxins, and manuals instructing him how to do it. In November of last year, prosecutors say he also bought a kilogram of sodium azide, a toxic compound that is explosive at high temperatures.
During searches of his homes and a storage unit, investigators also found 1,000 rounds of ammunition, handguns, components for assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
"Jordan Gonzalez admitted today that he worked to manufacture and deploy deadly toxins, stockpiled weapons and body armor and acquired manuals training him for violent confrontation," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. "We all have seen the devastation possible when these behaviors go unchecked. With today's guilty plea, Jordan Gonzalez will face justice and will not be a threat to society."
News that Gonzalez was considering criminal or possibly terror-related development of toxins came during a surprise plea hearing in federal court in Trenton. No planned target was mentioned during the hearing.
Gonzalez told the judge he had past battles with anxiety and depression but was knowingly pleading guilty.
His lawyer, Steven Ross, said outside court that "there was no plot," but declined to elaborate on his client's motive.
In addition to attempting to developing toxins for use as a weapon, Gonzalez also said he would admit to a separate count of possessing a flask that could be used to develop a controlled substance.
He said he was going to use the flask to develop a drug called MDMA.
Under the first toxin-related count, Gonzalez could face up to life in prison. Under the second drug-related count he could face up to four years in prison.
About a half-dozen family and friends looked on as the plea deal was being worked out in the fifth-floor courtroom.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 17.