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L.A. Chabad House suspect indicted on federal charges

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A homeless man accused of using an improvised projectile to damage a Los Angeles-area Jewish community center was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

Ron Hirsch, 60, was charged in a four-count indictment that could send him to prison for up to 70 years if he is convicted, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Hirsch was arrested on April 12, four days after an explosion outside a Chabad House, or local headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch sect, in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.

According to the indictment Hirsch detonated a steel pipe encased in concrete, which caused the 250-pound projectile to become airborne, punching a hole in the outside wall of the building and landed on top of a nearby home.

There it tore a gash in the roof above the bedroom of a sleeping 12-year-old child, prosecutors said.

Found at the scene were several rolls of plumbing and duct tape, metal rods and three empty bags of demolition chemicals.

A receipt for the three sacks of the demolition agent bore Hirsch's name, address and phone number, the FBI has said.

Investigators later determined that Hirsch, who also goes by the names Ronald Jay Fisher and Israel Fisher, had boarded a Greyhound bus for a trip from Los Angeles to New York hours after the blast.

Authorities issued a nationwide alert with a photo of the bearded Hirsch, but the trail went cold until a rabbi in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, saw a man fitting the suspect's description in his own synagogue and called police.

The indictment charges Hirsch with use of an explosive device to damage property, use of an explosive to commit a federal felony, use of a destructive device during a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Federal prosecutors initially charged Hirsch with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Los Angeles County prosecutors issued a felony complaint seeking his extradition from Ohio and charging him with various explosives-related offenses, including "explosion with intent to murder.

(Editing by Peter Bohan)