ATLANTIC CITY — Two Atlantic County women were arrested last week after authorities discovered they were conspiring to sell pipe bomb materials, a high-powered rifle and heavy ammunition, the police department said Tuesday.
The women were arrested after they sold the weapons to a city police officer, authorities said.
The department became aware Oct. 5 that Danielle Demers, 37, of Atlantic City, was attempting to sell a high-powered rifle, more than 300 rounds of ammunition and materials to assemble five pipe bombs in the city, authorities said.
A joint operation was launched immediately with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to retrieve the items, police Chief Henry White said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities soon recovered a Savage .30-06 rifle with a scope, more than 300 rounds of .30-06 ammunition and the materials to make five pipe bombs, he said.
“Within a few hours, we were able to retrieve these dangerous items,” White said. “The moment this information came to our attention, we sprung into action.”
Law enforcement created an operation to retrieve the items, and that same day, the weapons and ammunition were sold to police, White said. He would not elaborate on how the operation unfolded, where the tip came from or how the two suspects obtained the weapons and materials.
Demers also provided instructions on how to assemble the pipe bombs, which included filling them with nails for shrapnel, White said.
The Atlantic City Police Department SWAT Team arrested Demers as she was leaving her apartment on South Pennsylvania Avenue. The city Bomb Squad recovered the pipe bomb materials, police said.
Detectives then arrested and charged Nina House, 31, of Margate, after she conspired with Demers to sell the items, authorities said. She also had an active warrant for arrest from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
Authorities said at the news conference the two are believed to be acquaintances who met recently.
“It caused us to basically drop everything we were doing and give it our full attention,” said Capt. James Sarkos, commander of special investigations.
Capt. Jerry Barnhart, police bomb squad commander, said if the bombs were used, the shrapnel could travel as far as 1,000 feet.
Authorities at the news conference said there was no evidence to show the two suspects planned to set off the bombs or use the rifle, and there is no evidence showing a connection to terrorism. Authorities believe the two intended to sell the items, but the investigation is continuing.
An extensive background check is continuing, authorities said.
Demers, a transgender woman also known as Daniel Smith, was charged with unlawful possession of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device for an unlawful purpose, unlawful sale of a firearm, unlawfully teaching another to use an explosive and conspiracy.
House also was charged with unlawful possession of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device for an unlawful purpose, possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose, unlawful sale of a firearm, unlawfully teaching another to use an explosive and conspiracy.
House and Demers are both held at the Atlantic County jail.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner thanked the partner agencies at the news conference — and also thanked the public.
“The public is our greatest partner in assuring that these things do not occur. When the public steps up and when they see something, they say something, we are able to act at a much quicker pace,” he said.
Tyner said the two suspects could face as many as 20 years in state prison.
Mayor Don Guardian called the incident concerning, especially after the deadly shooting erupted in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing almost 60 people and injuring more than 500.
“I’m just very glad this striation ended the way it did,” he said. “It’s obvious how dangerous this situation could have been.”
The investigation also involved the state Office of Homeland Security.
“The swift action that was taken to remove these dangerous and potentially deadly weapons and individuals off our streets is a testament to the relationship we’ve developed with these agencies,” White said.
Detectives Brian Hambrecht and Nick Berardis are leading the investigation.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call the Atlantic City Police Department Special Investigations Section at 609-347-5858. Information can be texted anonymously to tip411, or 847411. Begin the text with ACPD.