A northern Michigan man threatened to kill President Joe Biden and phoned in bomb threats nationwide, including at the White House, a cafe near Traverse City, a sheriff’s office in South Dakota and a Marine Corps base in California, according to the FBI.
The threats were part of an alleged pattern of menace and harassment over the last two years that led to prosecutors Friday charging East Jordan resident Preston Mikottis, 36. He was charged with making a false bomb threat and threatening the president, charges that could send Mikottis to prison for up to 10 years.
The case represents the latest allegation of political extremism in Michigan, which has drawn national attention in recent months. That includes the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the participation of more than 20 people from Michigan in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Mikottis was not in custody Monday and there was no defense lawyer listed in court records. Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, and FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider declined comment about the case.
The FBI investigation dates to November 2021 and focuses on hundreds of threatening phone calls and emails and allegations that Mikottis had access to a rifle and was “mentally unstable,” according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Grand Rapids.
On Nov. 5, 2021, Mikottis called the FBI office in Detroit.
“I planted a bomb at Camp Pendleton, California,” Mikottis said, according to the complaint. The camp near San Diego houses more than 38,000 military family members.
Mikottis identified himself by name and provided an address in East Jordan, a city of about 2,200 people 50 miles northeast of Traverse City.
He also claimed his cell phone had been hacked before shouting profanity and hanging up. He called back three times, repeating the bomb threat each time, and demanded a U.S. Marine Corps officer come to his home, an FBI special agent wrote in the complaint.
Mikottis called a fourth time.
“I plan on killing the president and I planted bombs all over East Jordan, Michigan,” he said in one recorded call.
In another call that day, Mikottis reiterated the threat to the president: “I planted bombs at the White House. I planted bombs all over Michigan.”
“Mikottis then started making pounding noises mimicking morse code and again repeated that he planted bombs all over Michigan,” the agent wrote.
FBI officials contacted Antrim County Sheriff’s Office and requested someone conduct a welfare check on Mikottis. County officials and a Michigan State Police trooper tried contacting Mikottis but were unsuccessful, according to the complaint.
His girlfriend told investigators she had recently moved out because Mikottis “had become mentally unstable,” according to the complaint. While leaving, she threw a .22-caliber rifle out of the house and into the yard.
A trooper returned to the home but Mikottis would not answer the door, according to the FBI agent. Instead, the trooper “heard what sounded like tapping noises mimicking morse code from inside the trailer.”
The threats continued four days later.
On Nov. 9, 2021, a man using Mikottis’ telephone number called a Marine Corps barracks in Washington, D.C.
“On the phone call, the male caller stated that he had planted a bomb in Washington, D.C. and was on his way to kill the president,” the FBI agent wrote. “This call prompted emergency response to that (Marine Corps) facility that same day.”
Mikottis’ girlfriend listened to the recorded phone call for the FBI and identified the caller as Mikottis.
On Nov. 16, 2021, FBI agents arrived at Mikottis’s trailer so his girlfriend could retrieve the rifle and other possessions. Two days later, Mikottis was questioned by investigators from the FBI, Secret Service and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“Mikottis admitted that he had called the FBI and Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C., and he admitted he made bomb threats and threatened President Biden during the calls,” the FBI agent wrote. “Mikottis apologized to the interviewing agents, and he stated he had no intentions or means to carry out any of the stated threats.”
The threats continued.
In late January 2023, a threatening message was texted to the Corner Bistro in Bellaire, about 17 miles south of Mikottis’ home in East Jordan.
“I planted a bomb at the restaurant,” one text read. “It’s on one hell of a time delay.”
A second phone number was used to text another threat to the restaurant. The caller identified himself as “Preston” — which the restaurant’s co-owner recognized as the former boyfriend of a mutual friend.
The calls continued for a week, each time from a new number, leading the co-owner to believe the caller was using an application which changed the originating number.
Late last month, on April 27, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office on the western edge of of South Dakota received a threatening call. The caller said “you may want to evacuate” and disconnected the call.
“Law enforcement officers from this department were dispatched to search the area surrounding their office and other buildings, including the federal building, for suspicious individuals,” the FBI agent wrote in the court filing.
Soon after, a 911 dispatcher in Michigan called the sheriff’s office and said that Mikottis had been in contact with Detective Chad Aniszko of the Greenville Department of Public Safety. During his talk with the detective, Mikottis admitted having called in a threat to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, according to the court filing.
Investigators learned that Greenville officials had been in contact with Mikottis regarding separate investigations and that he had made more than 3,000 calls to the department during an 18-hour period in February, according to the FBI.
“Since then, Mikottis has been sending Detective Aniszko pictures of male genitalia on a daily basis and other messages,” the FBI agent wrote.
The Corner Bistro restaurant received a new threatening text April 28 from the same phone number used in the South Dakota incident.
“might (sic) want to evacuate,” the text read. “I placed a bomb on the premises.”
The broader investigation uncovered additional threats. In February, a Secret Service agent who had interviewed Mikottis in a separate matter reported receiving hundreds of emails and texts from Mikottis.
“The communications were of an irrational nature,” the FBI agent wrote.
Mikottis is the second northern Michigan man to be charged this spring in federal cases involving threats and bombs.
In March, Mancelona resident Terrence VanOchten, 56, was indicted on a federal charge of possessing unregistered destructive devices, a 10-year felony. The indictment was filed after investigators executed search warrants at the home and found “three metal pipe bombs, manuals for manufacturing explosive devices,” according to court records.
Prosecutors expressed concern about VanOchten engaging in “disturbing behavior,” including anti-government violence, citing comments he made about putting Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s head on a stick.
In March, federal prosecutors unsealed a case against Sebewaing resident Randall Robert Berka II. The criminal complaint portrays Berka as a social media-savvy man whose mother bought him an arsenal of weapons even though he had been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment in 2012.
Investigators uncovered a series of posts on a YouTube account titled “kill all federal agents on sight and hang biden” since mid-February. The account, which FBI investigators say has been traced to Berka’s home near Bay City, included threats to kill members of the LGBTQ+ community and Democrats, namely Whitmer.
The Berka case was unsealed one day after a grand jury indicted an Adrian-area man accused of posting threats on Twitter to kill Jewish politicians, including Attorney General Dana Nessel.
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