Wyoming man to change plea in explosives theft

 A Wyoming man accused of stealing more than 550 pounds of explosives from a U.S. Forest Service bunker near Red Lodge is seeking to plead guilty to a federal criminal indictment, according to court documents.

Thirty-three-year-old Budd James Nesius of Wheatland was ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Billings on Thursday for a change of plea hearing before Judge Susan Watters.

Nesius was arrested in February and initially pleaded not guilty to a charge of possession of stolen explosives. He faces up to 10 years in prison, three years' supervised release and a $250,000 fine. He did not reach a plea deal, according to documents filed by prosecutors and Nesius' public defender, David Merchant.

Nesius came across the Forest Service bunker in April 2013, while looking for a place to camp west of Red Lodge, according to an offer of proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker. The defendant returned with a pair of bolt cutters, broke into the bunker and loaded about 10 boxes of explosives and almost 4,000 feet of detonation cord into the back of his truck, Whittaker wrote.

``Nesius thought he might be able to sell the explosives and make a little money,'' Whittaker wrote.

Nesius took the explosives and hid them in a travel trailer on his family's property near Wheatland. About a month later, an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives led agents to Nesius' mother's house in Wheatland.

After Nesius' brother, Chris, called Nesius to tell him about the agents' visit, Nesis asked his brother to dispose of the explosive. Chris Nesius drove them about 35 miles away, where he attempted to conceal them off a dirt road near a reservoir. They were found the next day by an unidentified person who informed authorities.

Authorities connected Budd Nesius to the crime scene through DNA evidence recovered from the bunker, Whittaker wrote. Nesius remains in custody at the Yellowstone County Detention Center.

Merchant did not immediately return a call seeking comment. ATF spokesman Bradley Beyersdorf said he could not comment because the case because was still pending.