Clifton man faces federal prison in bomb threat

Michael Leroy Schonlau

A Clifton man faces up to 20 years in federal prison after admitting to making threats to blow up himself and a dilapidated refinery in Fruita last August.

Michael Schonlau, 36, pleaded guilty this week to separate counts of willfully making a threat and maliciously conveying false information, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm, during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver.

Schonlau will be sentenced in Grand Junction, although a date hadn’t been scheduled as of Wednesday. The charges each carry penalties of 10 years in federal prison, $250,000 fines and three years of supervised release.

Schonlau was arrested Aug. 6 after calling the FBI and saying he planned to commit suicide by blowing up the former Fruita Refinery at 1493 U.S. Highway 6&50. An arrest affidavit said he told an agent he had explosives on him that were linked to a 200-million-gallon propane tank.

The affidavit said he warned the agent that anyone who crossed over railroad tracks near the refinery would be a “trigger” for him. Police closed roads in the area several hours on the night of Aug. 6 before he was arrested.

Officers found two propane tanks at the refinery and .22 Ruger handgun underneath the driver’s side seat of Schonlau’s vehicle.

Schonlau told the agent he “was attempting to tell everyone about the hazards of the refinery, and this was the only way he could get the message out,” the affidavit reads.

Interviewed by the FBI, Schonlau said he was previously employed by a company hired to shut down part of the refinery and was “attempting to bring attention to safety hazards occurring during the process, including exposure to leaking (hydrogen sulfide) gas,” reads a copy of the plea agreement in the case.

He was prohibited from owning a handgun because of a May 2004 theft conviction.


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