Clovis News

Uncle pleads guilty in Visalia mail bombing

An Oklahoma man on Monday pleaded guilty in federal court in Fresno to sending a mail bomb that injured his nephew at a Visalia business in September 2009.

Vernon Dale Mustin, 52, of Spiro, Okla., faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced May 2 by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger.

Mustin's nephew, Clovis resident Aaron Mustin, opened a package on Sept. 8, 2009, at Cal-Air Cooling and Heating, the Visalia business he co-owns with his father, Danny Mustin. Danny and Vernon Mustin are brothers.

The package contained five pipe bombs inside a plastic tackle box.

Aaron Mustin suffered flash burns and cuts to his right arm, left hand and face when one of the pipe bombs exploded as he reached into the tackle box, according to postal inspectors.

In pleading guilty, Mustin acknowledged that he sent a package containing a smaller package with five bombs through the U.S. Mail to a re-mail service in Roseville.

The package was then sent on to the air conditioning business. The package was addressed to Danny Mustin.

Authorities at the time said if all five pipe bombs had detonated, the injury to Aaron Mustin, if not fatal, would have been very severe. Since the explosion, authorities said Monday, Mustin has suffered a permanent loss of his sense of smell.

In a written statement following the plea, B. Bernard Ferguson, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's Los Angeles Division, called the mail bomb "a cowardly act exhibits total disregard for human life."