When the DEA office was pipe-bombed last March, federal agents throughout the country worried that it was the work of narco-terrorists who finally had hit U.S. shores. It turns out, though, that the bombing was the work of a Fort Myers Beach pizza parlor owner who was angry that he had been indicted on drug charges two days earlier.
Jeffrey Matthews, 24, faces possible life in prison without parole for the bombing March 17 and other crimes that include homicide, U.S. Attorney Robert W. Genzman said Tuesday in announcing the plea agreement.
Matthews, who also goes by the name Jeffrey Ciganek, pleaded guilty Monday in secret proceedings before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich. That hearing, and an indictment that for the first time named Matthews in the bombing, were sealed for law enforcement purposes, Genzman said.
Matthews was suspected widely in the pipe bombing _ the first time that a U.S. government office was destroyed by a bomb _ because of reported past threats. He also was suspected in the murder Jan. 27 of Stephen Franken, a federal witness who was scheduled to testify to a federal grand jury. Ambushed in his car as he drove through rural Lee County, Franken was killed by multiple gunshots to the chest and head.
Matthews was arrested in April on the drug indictment. In his agreement this week with federal officials, he pleaded guilty to destroying the Drug Enforcement Agency's office in Fort Myers with a bomb and to commanding or causing Franken's death. He also pleaded guilty to supervising a continuing criminal enterprise and possession with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Matthews distributed multikilogram quantities of cocaine from a Fort Myers Beach pizza parlor, authorities said. His half-brother, John Ciganek, and Kelly Susskind, a former employee at the pizzeria, are accused of selling cocaine with him. The two are awaiting trial. Matthews' uncle, Kenneth Bird Sr., pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine and will be sentenced Oct. 1, as will Matthews,federal authorities said.
Genzman said the bombing investigation is continuing even with Matthews' admission. "We're going to be working to see who, if anybody else, might have been involved," he said. Matthews will cooperate with federal investigators, his agreement shows.
In exchange, he will avoid a trial that could have resulted in a death sentence under the federal continuing criminal enterprise law. Such a sentence was unlikely, Genzman said.
Court records show that in exchange for Matthews' guilty plea, the government also will not pursue drug charges against two other suspects associated with him. Records show the government is willing to recommend a light sentence _ even probation _ for Ms. Susskind if she cooperates.
Matthews' conviction sends a message to drug dealers, said Brian Raftery, resident agent in charge of the DEA office that was destroyed. "We're saying to drug dealers, "Don't do something like this.' "