A 64-year-old Amado man was sentenced to six years in federal prison after an explosive device he built and planted on a property he managed detonated and injured an associate.

Constantino Varela of Amado was sentenced at U.S. District Court in Tucson on May 22 by Judge James Soto after pleading guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of an unregistered destructive device, and one count of possession of firearms by a convicted felon.

According to court documents, Varela had been managing the defunct Rancher’s Mercantile business, located at a property on the Santa Cruz County side of Amado where he was also living.

Suspecting that vandals were trying to break into the building, Varela built and planted an explosive device in the structure. Authorities say the bomb contained metal balls and nails as added fragmentation, and was connected to a pressure-activated switch mounted on the floor close to the building’s entrance. 

On Sept. 17, 2017, Varela and an associate were retrieving ladders from the building when the other man stepped on the switch. The device exploded and sprayed the victim with shrapnel.

Sheriff Antonio Estrada said at the time that the injured man was treated for injuries to his chest and knees at Green Valley Hospital and released.

Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted sheriff’s deputies and Border Patrol agents at the scene, and investigators located three firearms in the truck Varela admitted to driving, as well as 688 rounds of ammunition inside Rancher’s Mercantile. Ten days later, while executing a search warrant, agents found three incendiary devices in the bed of Varela’s truck.

Varela was prohibited from possessing firearms as the result of a 1985 felony conviction in Santa Cruz County for kidnapping four people at knifepoint and stealing their car, court records show.

The day after his sentencing, Varela’s lawyer filed a motion announcing Varela’s intention to appeal his sentence. The lawyer had previously objected to an enhancement of Varela’s sentencing range, saying that it was inappropriate since Varela acted negligently, but not recklessly or intentionally.


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