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Report: Guardsman accused of stealing armored vehicle took unauthorized trip to Iraq, researched bomb-making

Joshua Philip Yabut, a Virginia National Guard Army officer, was arrested after taking an armored vehicle from a base and leading police on a two-hour chase.

By DAVID BOROFF | The New York Daily News | Published: March 14, 2019

NEW YORK (Tribune News Service) — A soldier accused of driving an armored military vehicle off a Virginia National Guard base recently took an unauthorized trip to Iraq and researched how to make bombs, according to a report.

Joshua Yabut was able to shed a monitoring device during a series of flights that led him to Iraq on Jan. 26, according to court records obtained by TV station WTVR.

With the help of his military ID, Yabut flew from Norfolk to Florida a few days earlier, according to the station. He then allegedly made stops in Charlotte, Toronto, Iceland, Berlin and Istanbul before arriving in the Middle Eastern country.

He would return to Norfolk two days later, according to authorities. His ankle monitor was still on his body when he left for Florida, according to WTVR, but later apparently vanished.

“It’s both amazing and concerning,” Blackstone (Va.) Mayor Billy Coleburn told the station. “Not only did he fly, but he took a military flight…. you would think in the military alone you should be on a no-fly list.”

Additionally, Yabut is accused of attempting to learn how to produce bombs, according to a Virginia prosecutor. Nottoway County Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Royall said in a motion that Yabut’s “recent online activity reveals research into bomb making,” according to WTVR.

Court documents obtained by the station found photos that “indicated” Yabut had been looking to have Denatonium Benzoate, a bitter chemical compound, shipped from China.

"I don't think there's any question to that, he presents a level of threat," Col. Matt Bristol, a retired Staff Judge Advocate for the United States Air Force, told the station.

Yabut is now in custody in Richmond and is set to appear in court next month. He will go on trial for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle after investigators say he stole an armored personnel carrier off a Virginia base and drove it 60 miles. He had called the allegations against him “completely bogus.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Wednesday that court documents say Yabut, 30, was out on bond when he violated the bond agreement by traveling to Iraq and researching bomb-making. The violations could cause additional charges.

A report by the Virginia Fusion Center, a partnership between state police and the state Department of Emergency Management, says Yabut had no "coherent reason" for going to Iraq. It says he told authorities it was photography-related.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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