Stolen Propane Tanks Put FBI on Edge
Missouri authorities probe tank thefts, cellphone purchases
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2015 2:00 PM CST

(Newser) – The FBI is investigating reports in Missouri of stolen propane tanks and prepaid cellphones purchased en masse—developments that sparked concerns of a possible terrorist plot, KFOR reports. An estimated 65-70 tanks were grabbed from outside cages in three separate heists, two at Lee's Summit on the same day in November (from a gas station and a CVS) and one this month in Independence (another CVS location). Meanwhile, handfuls of phones were purchased at Walmarts in four Missouri cities in recent days, ABC 17 News reports. At least a hundred were purchased at two Walmarts around the weekend; in one incident, dozens of phones were bought by several men late Friday night. The FBI is investigating at least three of the purchases.

"Right then and there I knew there was not something adding up about this," says a witness. "It's not right, it doesn't make any sense. Who's going to order 50 phones for Christmas? Who does that?" Paul Fennewald, former security coordinator for Missouri Homeland Security, says prepaid phones have been used by criminals to communicate unnoticed by law enforcement, and by terrorists to trigger bombs. But retired FBI agent Michael Tabman tells a different story: "This is probably not part of terrorist planning for a number of reasons," he tells Fox4 KC. "One is they wouldn't steal these items because they know that would attract law enforcement's attention. Also this would not be a tool of choice."