Date: January 28, 2011
Abstract: Federal agents on Friday arrested a Coventry Township man on one count of unlawful possession of a biological agent -- the deadly toxin ricin.
Jeffrey B. Levenderis, 54, appeared in U.S. District Court in Akron late Friday, but did not enter a plea, a federal spokesman said. Levenderis is the former owner of the home on South Main St. in Coventry where officials had seized a small amount of material late Tuesday afternoon.
Levenderis, whose elderly father said he been troubled for years, is scheduled to appear again in court next week in Akron.
Ricin, a deadly poison, is made from castor beans and is a biological toxin of choice for some terrorist groups, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
The Centers for Disease Control has an online q&a about Ricin: Ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans. If the beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing the beans. It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
Township and Summit County officials assured the public that there was no widespread health concern and minimized any possible connection with terrorism. They continued searching Levenderis' former home late Friday.
"We never really felt that there was any concern beyond the house and
we never considered evacuating the neighborhood," said Coventry
Township Fire Chief David Calderone. "We found a few baggies of material
in a closed coffee can in the refrigerator, but they remained contained
the entire time and we sent them to the lab to be tested."
The substance was flown to a federal lab in Maryland for analysis. Investigators confirmed Friday afternoon that the material taken was ricin -- a toxin that is "derived from the castor bean and can be deadly if ingested, inhaled or injected."
The new owner of the home, which had recently been foreclosed on, initially found the substance. The new owner notified local township and Summit County authorities, who contacted the FBI.
Federal agents called in specially trained FBI hazardous materials teams from Pittsburgh and Quantico, Va., FBI spokesman Scott Wilson said.
Wilson said he could not say whether he suspected Levenderis of actually making the ricin, whether he had more and whether he had taken it elsewhere. He also would not say where Levenderis was when arrested by federal agents.
"The investigation led us to him, but I can't go into any statements he made," Wilson said. "I can say that we don't believe there is any connection to terrorism at this point."
Levenderis' father said his son was still secretly staying at the home up until the point when the new owners showed up.
"My son was very troubled for a long, long time and when the FBI men came here to talk to me (Thursday), I wasn't surprised," said Anthony Levenderis, 82. He and his late wife Mary had adopted Jeffrey Levenderis when he was 6 years old.
"But I believe he was more of a danger to himself than to other people," Anthony Levenderis said. "His marriage broke up, he quit his job and he lost his house, so maybe this will be the best thing to happen to him. He needs a lot of help."
Jeffrey Levenderis has no criminal record. He divorced in 1990 and just recently lost the home, a $165,000 two-story, brick colonial across from Firestone Metro Park, part of the Summit County park system.
Anthony Levenderis, a retired teacher from the Akron City School District, said he had no idea why his son might have had the ricin or how long he might have had it."The FBI men asked the same question, but I don't know what he was planning to do with it," he said. "But all of this is reviving a lot of ugly moments from the past for me" (Cleveland, 2011).
Title: Denver Man Sentenced For Anthrax Hoax
Date: January 31, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A Denver-area man recently received a six year sentence for sending threatening letters, some containing a white powder, to President Barack Obama.
Members of Congress from Colorado and Alabama were also sent suspicious letters, as were Argentine consulates, according to the Denver Post.
The U.S. attorney’s office for Colorado announced that Jay Stuart DeVaughn of Aurora, Colorado, also known as Jay Paige Edwards, also received a sentence of three years supervised release.
In August, DeVaughn pleaded guilty to a series of charges that included mailing threatening communications and conveying false information to elected officials, the Denver Post reports.
According to authorities, DeVaughn’s letter to President Obama was intercepted in September 2009. The envelope contained a bag of white powder and a reference to anthrax. The letters were critical of health care reforms.
The white powder in the bag turned out to be completely harmless. It was determined to be sugar or a sugar substitute, the Denver Post reports. Nonetheless, emergency personnel were summoned when the offices received the letter. Senator Richard Shelby had his offices closed for two days in the wake of the threats.
"The emergency response required when letters claiming to contain anthrax are discovered can cost thousands of dollars," Joyce White, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alabama, said, according to Al.com. "The people opening these letters are put in fear for their lives and have to undergo unpleasant decontamination and medical precautions" (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).Title: 'Bio Terror' Threat Man Arrested In South Africa After Threatening To Attack Britain And U.S.
Date: Frebruary 13, 2011
Source: Daily Telegraph
Abstract: A businessman was arrested in South Africa on terrorism charges yesterday after allegedly threatening to attack Britain and America with biological weapons.
The arrest came after a six-month
investigation by British, US and South African security services. The
64-year-old man, who is a South African citizen, is said to have
repeatedly sent threatening emails to a Whitehall department in an
attempt to extort £2.5 million.
He is then understood to have sent similar threats to institutions in the US, at which point the FBI was called in.
Yesterday morning several containers were left in a storage facility
near the suspect’s home in South Africa’s North-West Province.
They are thought to have held money and, when the man went to collect it, he was arrested by South African special forces.
South African authorities said they had taken the threat seriously,
though they had found no evidence that the man was capable of launching a
biological attack. The suspect, who has not been named, is due to
appear in a Johannesburg court.
Last night his home was among
the sites searched. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Our
counter-terrorism officers co-operated with the South African police in
terms of fact-finding for the investigation’ (Daily Mail, 2011).
Title: New York Man Convicted Over Anthrax Hoax
Date: March 21, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A New York man was recently convicted by a federal jury in Newark, New Jersey, of committing a white powder terrorism hoax.
Philip D. Meyer of Chester, New York, was accused of mailing an envelope containing a white powder to the Newark offices of the Star Ledger newspaper.
At the time the incident occurred, Meyer had been employed by the newspaper as a delivery driver for over 15 years, but had recently been suspended for reasons relating to his job performance.
In early February 2010, Meyer’s supervisor, Anthony Paglia, sent Meyer a request to mail back Department of Transportation logs detailing the hours Meyer had worked for two months in 2010. Included in the request was a business reply envelope addressed to Paglia.
On February 16, the newspaper’s circulation manager received a voicemail from Meyer listing a number of grievances against Paglia and a statement saying it was “time to retaliate.” The next day, Paglia opened the business reply envelope sent back from Meyer and found that it contained a white powder.
Federal agents and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force immediately investigated the newspaper’s offices. An inspector from the United States Postal Inspection’s Dangerous Mail Investigation Unit conducted a field test of the powder and found it to be harmless.
On February 19, Meyer was arrested at his home in Chester, New York, by members of the Newark and New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. A HAZMAT team identified and seized a canister of powder from the residence. It was later confirmed not to contain any toxins or dangerous biological agents.
In a post-arrest interview, Meyer admitted that he wanted to scare his boss by sending him the envelope. Meyer told an agent that he had hoped Paglia would think the powder was either cocaine or anthrax, but that he simply meant it to be a joke.
Meyer will be sentenced in June 2011. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following any prison term.
"Paul Meyer's conviction should serve as a warning to those who intend to misuse the United States mail for this type of criminal activity," Thomas Boyle, the acting inspector in charge of the Newark Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, said (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).Title: South African Bioterrorism Trial Set For May
Date: March 31, 2011
Abstract: The South African trial of a man charged with threatening to use a harmful biological agent against the United States and the United Kingdom has been pushed back to May, the South African Press Association reported on Thursday
Engineering company owner Brian Roach was arrested in February after allegedly threatening the British government through e-mail and letters to release foot and mouth disease in the two countries if he was not paid $4 million.
Foot and mouth disease can be deadly to cattle and other animals, though it is not able to infect humans. The animal-carried pathogen has been classified by the United States as a dangerous "select agent."
Roach last month did not pursue an initial request for bail and suggested he would dispute some parts of the terrorism charge. The 64-year-old South African engineer is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm, extortion and money laundering.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said the trial date was delayed to May 10 in order to give authorities more time to build their case.
"The case was postponed ... for police to continue with investigations and upon completion the accused must make written representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions," Mhaga said. "We expect it to be completed by then," he added.
Roach developed his scheme in order to win financial renumeration for white Zimbabwean farmers who were forced to give up their land in 2000 under a mandate by that nation's president, Robert Mugabe, according to court documents. He apparently was angry with Washington and London for providing insufficient aid to the farmers.
"We are not habitual criminals, but have been victim of a situation which was entirely out of our control and attributed to corrupt and incompetent politicians," Roach reportedly wrote in an e-mail message to the British government.
The case was pursued by investigators from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, SAPA reported. South African authorities examined Roach's residence and other locations but did not discover anything that would indicate he had the ability to release foot and mouth, according to a February news report.Mhaga said London at this point was not interested in seeking to have Roach extradited to the United Kingdom (NTI, 2011).
Title: Woman Charged Over White House Anthrax Mailings
Date: April 14, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Kate Michelle Young, a 25-year-old woman living in Kent, Washington, has been charged with sending fake “anthrax letters,” which contained white powder resembling the deadly bacteria, to the White House and the King County government.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle filed charges on Wednesday alleging that Young mailed an envelope addressed to “President Obama-Sanchez” that contained the white powder. Young was arrested on Tuesday and remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing, Seattle Pi reports.
A letter carrier received the suspicious envelope on Monday at the 3600 block of South 262nd Street in Kent. A postal inspector examined the black envelope and found that it contained a powder similar in appearance to dried anthrax.
The sender of the letter, which started with the salutation “Hello Michelle & Girls,” was listed as Issaquah, Washington resident Jim Sinegal, who is the co-founder and CEO of Costco.
“Dear Obama – this is an anthrax sting,” the letter’s author wrote, according to Seattle Pi. “If you are scared, either mail Jim Sinegal 864.00 so you can call 911 or tell the Atty General he can have your rights too.”
Investigators went to Young’s Kent home the next day and took her into custody. She was later identified by the letter carrier as the woman who tried to mail the letter. She is also suspected of mailing two similar letters to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“Young stated that she put the powder in the letter ‘to piss off Obama,’” a Secret Service agent told the court, according to Seattle Pi. “Upon showing her the letter written to the President, Young pointed out a red fingerprint on the letter and stated that this was her ‘right pointer finger’ and that she had put it on the document.”
Young has been charged with one count of conducted an anthrax hoax. She is believed to have targeted Cotsco because she had recently been fired from her job there. The powder in the envelope is believed to have been baby powder and flour (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Elgin, Ill., Anthrax Hoax Letter Came From Prison Inmate
Date: May 4, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A prison inmate is allegedly responsible for recently sending a threatening letter filled with white powder to an appellate court in Elgin, Illinois.
The letter, which turned out to be harmless, contained a credible threat, according to police and officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to CourierNews.SunTimes.com.
Elgin police spokeswoman Sue Olafson confirmed that the letter arrived at the courthouse via the U.S. Postal Service and had been sent from a correctional facility in southern Illinois.
Appellate Court Clerk Bob Managan told CourierNews.SunTimes.com that the letter was sent from the Tamms Correctional Center and that the message called for death to all judges. Olafson would not confirm Tamms as the origin of the letter.
Tamms includes a “super max” facility that houses some of the state’s worst offenders.
“Offenders approved for placement at the Tamms C-Max have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to conform to the requirements of a general population facility,” according to the Illinois Department of Corrections website.
Within an hour of the letter being opened, streets in the area surrounding the courthouse had been cordoned off and ambulances and fire department hazardous-materials equipment arrived in large numbers, CourierNews.SunTimes.com reports.
Thirty people, including two police officers and three fire fighters, who may have been exposed to the powder were held in quarantine for hours. They were scrubbed with decontaminating sprays and taken for examination at local hospitals.
Olafson said that no one had been
harmed and all were sent home by the evening’s end. The courthouse will remain
closed until the final results of the testing are received (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Guilty Plea Entered Over Anthrax Hoax
Date: July 27, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A St. Clair, Alabama, man recently pleaded guilty in a federal court to charges stemming from the mailing of a series of anthrax hoax letters in spring 2010.
Clifton Dodd of Lincoln, Alabama, pleaded guilty to 23 counts of mailing letters that contained a threat in the form of a white powder that could have reasonably been perceived as the biological toxin anthrax.
Dodd entered the plea in front of District Court Judge Abdul Kallon just as the trial was set to begin. He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to mail eight of the anthrax hoax letters.
“We are pleased with the defendant’s decision to plead guilty and look forward to sentencing,” U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said.
U.S. Senator Richard Selby (R.-Alabama) received a hoax letter from Dodd, as did Alabama Senator Jim Preuitt of Talladega, two Talladega state court judges, Talladega County Sheriff Jerry Studdard, several Talladega County Jail inmates and police investigators who had interviewed Dodd previously.
Dodd admitted to conspiring to send some of the letters along with another man. His co-defendant pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge last year.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Protective Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).Title: Spain Frees Mexican In Alleged Gas Attack Plot On Anti-Pope Crowd
Date: August 18, 2011
Source: Fox News
Abstract: A Spanish judge ordered the release Thursday of a young Mexican chemistry student arrested on suspicion of plotting a gas attack on protesters opposed to a visit here by Pope Benedict XVI, but the suspect remains under investigation.
Judge Fernando Andreu of the National Court did not immediately bring formal charges against Jose Perez Bautista, but seized his passport and ordered him to report to a police station twice a day.
Andreu announced his order after questioning Perez Bautista for about two hours and just as the Pope arrived for a youth festival. The pontiff is to leave Sunday.
An anti-pope demonstration was held Wednesday night in Madrid. Police had arrested the Mexican on Tuesday because of threats he made on the Internet against anti-pope demonstrators due to take part in that rally.
There was no chemical attack at it, although riot police clashed with demonstrators after it was over. Eight protesters were arrested and 11 people were hurt, including two police.
Perez Bautista, a stocky man of 24 with black hair worn in a crew cut, was handcuffed Thursday as two police led him into the office of Andreu for questioning. He wore black jeans and a black T-shirt with a white logo that appeared to be a Pac-Man with teeth.
The Mexican, from Puebla state near Mexico City, is in Spain studying at the government's top research body, the Spanish National Research Council.
Andreu said that a week ago police had traced threatening comments sent to an online daily to a Council IP address and then eventually to the Mexican.
In those messages, Perez Bautista allegedly made disparaging remarks about gays and said it "my struggle" to kill them and "any anti-human aberration during their protests against the Catholic Church," the judge wrote.
Perez Bautista allegedly said he had access to acid and other chemicals to make Molotov cocktails he would throw at protesters, and tried to recruit people to join him.
But the suspect's government-appointed attorney, Antonio Ortiz, said police had not seized any chemicals from his client and that Perez Bautista told the judge he never meant to stage an attack. Ortiz likened the Mexican's online messages to "a joke in bad taste."
"But in the end it was pure fantasy," Ortiz said.
Judge Andreu wrote that the suspect remains under investigation for the possible crime of making violent threats (Fox News, 2011).
Title: Hijacked Ship Had Chemical Weapons Materials Onboard
Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Finnish researchers recently claimed that the Arctic Sea, a Finnish ship hijacked in Swedish waters in 2009, was most likely carrying materials stolen from Russia for the use of making weapons of mass destruction.
In a new book, Eye of the Storm, Myrskyn Silmässä and Timo Hellenberg, assert that chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials were loaded onto the Arctic Sea in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and were headed to the Middle East before being hijacked, according to TheLocal.se.
According to official documents, the ship was loaded with supplies of timber worth more than $1.8 million. The hijackers demanded a ransom of $1.5 million. The ship was taken over off the coast of the Swedish island Öland soon after leaving port in Finland.
The ship was sighted in the English Channel, but was later lost until the Russian Navy reclaimed it off Cape Verde nearly a month later.
Russian authorities claim to have arrested eight Russian and Baltic men in an operation to take back the ship. Six of the men were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison for their role in the crime.
The researchers have dismissed
rumors that nuclear warheads or missiles were part of the cargo, but question
why the Russian government downplayed the hijacking, TheLocal.se reports (Bio
Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: 2011 Georgia Terrorist Plot
Abstract: In 2011, the FBI arrested four men in the U.S. state of Georgia, who were allegedly plotting to deploy explosives and biological weapons to kill a number of American politicians, media figures, Internal Revenue Service employees, and innocent civilians. The four men were Frederick Thomas, 73, Dan Roberts, 67; Ray H Adams, 65; and Samuel J. Crump, 68. Thomas is from Cleveland, Georgia; the other three men are from Toccoa. They were members of a domestic militia group and believed they had to commit murder in order to "save this country". According to The Guardian, Crump had planned to make 10 pounds of ricin and spread it in major cities and along Atlanta, Jacksonville, Newark, Washington D.C., and New Orleans highways and bomb federal buildings in Atlanta. They also discussed dispersing ricin from an airplane in the sky over Washington D.C. and possibly attack other targets with explosives. Adams is a former Agriculture Research Service employee, while Crump used to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to court documents, Thomas was inspired by the online pro-militia novel "Absolved" by Mike Vanderboegh, which features small bands of U. S. citizens rising up against the federal government. Vanderboegh denied responsibility for inspiring the attack, saying in a blog post "I am as much to blame for the Georgia Geriatric Terrorist Gang as Tom Clancy is for Nine Eleven." Earlier, Vanderboegh had attracted controversy after urging health care reform opponents to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic Party offices; several such incidents occurred after Vanderboegh made his statement (Wikipedia, 2012).
Title: Ricin Plot Charges: Four Georgia Men Accused Of Planning Bioterrorism Attack
Date: November 2, 2011
Source: Washington Post
Abstract: Ten years after anthrax spores delivered in letters killed five people, injured 17, and raised fears about the
safety of opening mail, four Georgia men have been charged with plotting to
buy explosives and manufacture a deadly biological toxin: ricin.
The men, all sexagenerians or older, are suspected to be members of a fringe Georgia militia group. They are charged with purchasing explosives and a silencer, and taking steps to produce the toxin.
The specter of bioterrorism, in which bacteria, viruses or toxins like ricin are deliberately released to kill or cause illness, no longer looms as large in America as it did after 9/11. Then, the anthrax-laced mail caused near hysteria.
But scientists say that we shouldn’t be so cavalier, as biological weapons are now easier to make at home than ever before.
After all, the product the four allegedly were producing is a highly toxic protein that is made from castor beans. Compared with anthrax, a much higher quantity of ricin is needed to have a significant impact. Ricin can also be inactivated much more easily than anthrax, which can remain lethal for decades.
But ricin can have a deadly effect if a person comes in direct contact with it, especially if inhaled or digested. There is also no antidote for it, although a victim can be saved by immediate medical attention, during which doctors would try to maintain air flow to the lungs.
In a cover story on Sunday, the New York Times Magazine described a bioterrorism attack this way:
It makes of the most mundane object, death: a doorknob, a handshake, a breath can become poison. Like a nuclear bomb, the biological weapon threatens such a spectacle of horror — skin boiling with smallpox pustules, eyes blackened with anthrax lesions, the rotting bodies of bubonic plagues — that it can seem the province of fantasy or nightmare or, worse, political manipulation.
Brett Giroir, a former director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told the magazine that advancements in laboratory technology had made that fantasy much closer to real possibility than ever before.
“What took me three weeks in a sophisticated laboratory in a top-tier medical school 20 years ago, with millions of dollars in equipment, can essentially be done by a relatively unsophisticated technician,” Giroir said.
But the Post’s Checkpoint Washington blog reports that the chances these Goergians could have created a weapon of mass destruction was “tiny at best.”
The chances are tiny because the challenges involved in delivering lethal doses of ricin to mass numbers of people are great, and nearly insurmountable for amateurs. “No one has done it, as far as we know,” Raymond Zilinskas, director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., told Checkpoint. “It is beyond the capabilities of anyone except professional weapons scientists.”
As for bioterrorism by mail, The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports that the Post Office is focused on bigger problems, and that workers are now so unconcerned by the threat of attack that they no longer wear the gloves and masks provided as a precaution.They are trained, however, to be on the lookout for envelopes that appear to contain sharp objects, dust, no return address, an invalid Zip code, or weird writing. The USPS spends $101 million each year to screen every piece of first-class mail sent or received by U.S. households and mail sent to federal addresses in Washington (Washington Post, 2011).
Title: Bug Spray Bandit Robs California Bank Armed With Pesticide
Date: November 18, 2011
Source: AOL News
Abstract: He was armed and dangerous -- particularly to insects.
Law enforcement officials in California are seeking information about a man who robbed a Rancho Santa Fe bank armed with a pesticide sprayer.
Toting a white plastic spritzer of bug spray and clad in a yellow rain jacket with a dust mask, the perp who pulled off the Nov. 4 heist might have been able to pass himself off as an exterminator.
That is until he approached a teller at the Pacific Western Bank, displayed what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun, and demanded cash, according to an FBI press release.
The crook fled with an undisclosed sum of money and no one was injured, the statement notes.
Witnesses described the perp as a white man, about 30 years old, with a thin build. He stands about 5-foot-11 and has wavy brown hair and an unshaven face. The crook was last seen wearing jeans, white sneakers, a black baseball cap, a yellow rain coat and a dust mask.Calls to the FBI's San Diego division and the San Diego Sheriff's Department were not returned by Huffington Post deadlines (AOL News, 2011).
Title: St. Louis Woman Pleads Guilty To Federal
Anthrax Hoax Charges
Date: December 2, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A St. Louis woman recently pleaded guilty to federal charges that she sent numerous packages to her perceived enemies that contained, among other things, a white powder that investigators believe was meant to simulate the deadly biological toxin anthrax.
Vennessa V. Bell admitted to the court that she sent numerous packages between 2003 and this year that frequently contained, in addition to the white powder, her own feces, used condoms and used feminine hygiene products, according to StLToday.com.
Most of the packages were sent in yellow bubble mailers with Purple Heart postage stamps. They were often decorated with strange writings and collages of pasted-on pornographic pictures.
Bell's motives remain somewhat mysterious, but a former neighbor who received many of the packages told investigators that Bell believed she was being picked on and that her other neighbors were using a “special device” to listen in on her.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sauer said that Bell was driven by her perceived grievances with others, StLToday.com reports.
Bell underwent a mental health evaluation and was determined to be competent to stand trial, though as part of the plea, her lawyer and Sauer will ask for three years probation and mental health counseling.
Bell plead guilty to three federal misdemeanor charges of mailing injurious articles, according to StLToday.com (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).