ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - We're learning new information about the multi-agency investigation that led to the arrest of Daniel Aikens, 37 of Alexandria, for extortion for allegedly setting off two pipe bombs in the city and trying to extort $10,000 from Payday Today on MacArthur Drive.
Daniel Aikens | Source: KALB
On Friday, Aikens was back in federal court in Alexandria before Magistrate Judge Joseph Perez-Montes for a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing to see if there was enough evidence to move forward with the case against him. The detention hearing was delayed for now, but enough probable cause was found to continue with the case.
Aikens was represented by federal public defender James Klock. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamilla Bynog is prosecuting for the government. If convicted, Aikens faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Goins, who is assigned to the Alexandria field office, testified in federal court about how they were able to track down Aikens as a suspect.
That process began with the explosion at Payday Today on MacArthur Drive on Jan. 2 where investigators say that Aikens tried to extort $10,000 from the business by calling the company and initially claiming that a relative had dropped her keys. When the employee working at the store went outside to check for them, a pipe bomb detonated.
The employee later told investigators that the voice on the phone, who investigators said was later identified as Aikens, told her that there was a second device in the store, and unless she got the money, it was going to go off. She also told investigators that there was reason to believe that Aikens was watching her from a different location. Special Agent Goins told the court that a second device was never found inside the building, but they were able to retrieve metal fragments and part of a circuit board from the bomb that exploded.
Surveillance video from the area showed a white Jeep Cherokee at a nearby gas station with a clear view of Payday Today.
Investigators were able to trace the number used to call in the threat to a 716-area code that they later learned was a burner phone purchased at a Dollar General on Horseshoe Drive back on Dec. 19. Surveillance video obtained nearby also showed a white Jeep Cherokee in the vicinity and the clerk at the store was able to give a description of the person who purchased the phone. That description would later match Aikens.
According to the clerk, the person who purchased the phone had a right arm that appeared to be "non-functioning," according to Special Agent Goins. But, when it was time to pay for the phone, the arm was "miraculously healed" as Aikens reached into his pocket for a "wad of cash" to pay for the phone. The FBI believes this was an effort to thwart investigators.
We learned that there was actually an explosion that pre-dated the one on Jan. 2 according to Special Agent Goins. An explosion was reported on Dec. 20 at the Texaco on Jackson Street, that's the same spot News Channel 5 spotted agents searching a field nearby just days after the explosion at Payday Today.
Special Agent Goins testified that on the morning of the explosion at the Jackson Street location, two 911 calls came in - one from a woman who reported a blast in which a piece of plastic hit her car, and a second call came in minutes later to 911 from the 716-area code that investigators were able to trace to the Payday Today explosion. According to the FBI, a voice matching that of Aikens also reported the explosion and then hung up as 911 operators were trying to transfer the call to the Alexandria Police Department.
The FBI was able to track data provided by AT&T, since the burner phone has not been located, that placed that phone in the vicinity of the Walgreens down the street.
Federal investigators put out a BOLO (Be On The Look Out) for a white Jeep Cherokee matching the description of the one they kept spotting. Surveillance tracked it to a home on Tennessee Avenue, the same one we saw them searching on Jan. 7. Special Agent Goins testified that they were actually in the process of following that Jeep on Jan. 6 when the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office pulled it over for a busted tail light and expired tags. Aikens was behind the wheel and was arrested.
"We had great assistance by Louisiana State Police, the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office, and the Alexandria Police Department," said Special Agent Goins.
On Jan. 7 as agents searched that home on Tennessee Avenue, they found evidence of an explosion that happened in the kitchen.
"It looked like a bomb went off," said Special Agent Goins. "It seemed like the blast originated by the stove."
Metal fragments were collected and a separate phone found in Aikens' Jeep Cherokee the night he was arrested had photos of the kitchen post-explosion that were dated Jan. 2, the same day as the Payday Today explosion.
Investigators also found traces of black explosive powder during their investigation that they were able to trace back to a local sporting goods store, where the clerk there also provided a description that matched that of Aikens.
The ATF is still examining the explosive evidence collected during their investigation. We're told that is currently in a lab in Atlanta.
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