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Deer Park man charged with Home Depot threats

Home Depot store on New York Avenue where

Home Depot store on New York Avenue where an explosive device was left inside of the store. (Oct. 17, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A Deer Park man who admitted in court to a plan to explode pipe bombs at three Long Island Home Depot stores as part of a $2 million extortion plot will remain in jail after a magistrate rejected his bail request Thursday to prepare his wife and son for an expected lengthy prison sentence.

Daniel Sheehan, 50, a part-time employee at the hardware chain's Deer Park store, was arrested Wednesday in Commack by FBI agents following a joint investigation with Suffolk police and the Suffolk County district attorney's office, authorities said.

Authorities said Sheehan told them he planted a pipe bomb inside a Huntington Home Depot on New York Avenue in Huntington. Investigators said a letter that they linked to Sheehan was sent anonymously to the store. It warned that the Huntington explosive was proof of his bomb-making capabilities. The bomb was found Oct. 15. In the letter to the Huntington store, Sheehan threatened to detonate pipe bombs in three Home Depot stores on Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving and among the busiest shopping days of the year -- unless $2 million was paid. He later used a cellphone to make a threatening call to the store.

If convicted, Sheehan faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 30 years in prison and up to life.

Thursday, Sheehan asked U.S. Magistrate Gary Brown to grant him bail during his first appearance in federal court in Central Islip.

"All I'm looking for," Sheehan said to Brown, against the advice of his attorney, "is to get home so my family can get adjusted to my being away."

Sheehan told Brown he had not planned to go through with his plot. "I had stopped. I had quit," said Sheehan, as his wife and 10-year-old son looked on.

Brown was not convinced and ordered the part-time handyman held without bail, pending future hearings, as both a danger to the community and a flight risk.

Earlier in the hearing, Eastern District federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz said that the bomb planted in the Huntington store could have seriously injured dozens of people if it had gone off.

Sheehan's court appearance came a day after he was arrested after he drove his green van away from the Commack Home Depot, authorities said.

Inside the van, investigators found the cellphone they said was used in making the threatening phone call, according to court papers and sources.

The investigation hinged on tracing the location of that cellphone, according to court papers and sources.

It was a prepaid device that been purchased anonymously, but using a court-authorized wire tap, investigators traced its location around to Suffolk County using GPS technology, according to court papers and sources.

The trail eventually led them to Sheehan's job at the Deer Park store and Deer Park his home, sources said.

Not even last week's powerful superstorm could derail the investigation, said a source familiar with the joint operation.

"FBI agents were even out in Hurricane Sandy following the phone's GPS," the source said.

Sheehan's wife declined to comment after the hearing, as did his defense attorney, Tracey Gaffey and prosecutor Treinis Gatz.

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