Mail Security Alert: March 2021

Mail Security Alert 2021-03 Mar.

White powder, extortion, coercion, and death threats — March 2021 saw a significant rise in threats targeting government agencies globally.

These incidents targeted the general public all the way to national leadership.

As travel opens up and countries begin to handle those processes there is a chance that bad intentioned actors will use the “new” situation to send threats. 

After the year-long shutdown and the pain of bringing elements of life back online leaves countless opportunities to deliver mail security threats. 

Sites or people that have a high profile persona or represent something controversial are likely targets for a mailed threat.

Many of these threats are directly correlative to decisions, court proceedings or events that could be seen as controversial and the threats in response to them. 

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United States Dangerous Mail Incidents

March in the United States saw a significant increase in threats targeting establishment and high profile locations.

Schools were a major target of white powder this month as they begin to open up and life returns to normal.

Threats were broken down primarily into targeted threats and drugs. The threats spanned everything from local sheriff getting death threats over a court case and forcing a federal court evacuation.

Hazardous & Threatening Mail

Mar 24, 2021

Another school on the Upper East Side received a suspicious package containing white powder on Wednesday, amid a string of similar incidents that seem designed to sow fear despite posing no danger, police say.

Police responded around 9:35 a.m. to the building, which houses six schools, after staff found a white envelope containing white powder — similar to the ones mailed to at least nine other Manhattan schools since March 10.

The building was evacuated and no children were exposed, police said. The substance was deemed non-hazardous and taken to the Department of Health for more analysis. Police could not yet say whether Wednesday’s envelope had been definitively linked to the others.

Since the unidentified powder poses no threat, the packages seem intended to “cause disruption and alarm” rather than injury, police said last week.

As of last week, each school had received a plain white envelope with a U.S. flag stamp and an address written in block letters, containing the unidentified white powder. All were sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

Mar 24, 2021

A Barnesville man faces charges of terroristic threats after he allegedly sent letters threatening to kill Jones County deputies and employees.

54-year-old Travis Ball is now behind bars at the Jones County Detention Center after the Sheriff says Ball sent threatening letters to the sheriff’s office and the Jones County Courthouse. One of those threats was that anthrax was inside the envelopes.

Two more suspicious letters showed up this week. One to the Jones County Courthouse and second one to the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Reece believes Ball, who lives in Lamar County, is the person who mailed them.

Jones County Sheriff’s Office says it was not actually anthrax in the envelopes they received. Allen says he believes it may have been baking soda.

Reece and Allen say it wouldn’t be the first time Ball has been accused of sending these threats.

Ball served two years in federal prison after he allegedly sent anthrax threats in 2016 to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, State Bar and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“When we called the other agencies that arrested him. Right off the bat, when you say his name, they say ‘Oh, boy,'” Reece said.

Reece says before receiving the letters, they had an outstanding warrant on Ball for “harassing communications” with a person in Jones County. On Tuesday, investigators searched Ball’s home in Barnesville and found evidence that he may have sent more letters.

“They found some more letters, that he’d sent to Washington, so I think we’ll be seeing more places that receive some letters in the next few days from him,” Reece said.

Mar 23, 2021

The FBI says the substance found in a letter sent to the federal courthouse in Macon is likely “not hazardous.” Officials said Wednesday that they’ve already conducted preliminary testing on the substance.

They said despite early testing finding the substance harmless, it’s been sent to a lab for additional testing “out of extreme caution.” The FBI added that no one was evacuated from the courthouse while authorities responded to the incident on Tuesday.

The sheriff’s office tells WGXA News that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is handling testing the letter and the details of those results.

Mar 22, 2021

Crews were called to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond after they say an employee was exposed to an unknown powder.

Richmond Fire Department was called around 2:40 p.m. to the 700 block of East Byrd Street after an employee was exposed to an unknown white powder after opening a package.

Two employees and the area where the incident happened were isolated. RFD said no injuries were reported and no medical treatment was needed. The incident was marked under control just before 5 p.m.

Mar 19, 2021

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating a potential biological attack aimed at Sedgwick County government, county officials said Monday.

The Sedgwick County Finance Department received a certified letter from a group claiming to be part of a Moorish nationalist group on Monday afternoon. The origin of the letter is under investigation, Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said.

Inside the envelope was a three-page document coated with an unknown white powder later identified in a field test as diaminotoluene, a highly toxic and potentially fatal substance used in dye making. Two employees handled the letter and began to experience symptoms, Stolz said.

One county employee was sent to a Wichita hospital on Monday and is recovering at home, according to a news release from Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Benjamin Blick. Three others had “minor symptoms” of exposure but continued to work on Tuesday, Blick said.

After handling the document, one employee began coughing and another had a skin irritation.

Mar 16, 2021

A Pennsylvania man was charged today with obstructing an investigation into his efforts to acquire the deadly toxin, ricin. Dr. Ishtiaq Ali Saaem, 37, of Allentown, Penn., was charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

According to the charging document, Saaem held a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, resided in Massachusetts and worked as the director of advanced research at a biotechnology firm based in Massachusetts. Saaem ordered 100 packets of castor beans, each containing eight seeds, online.

Ricin is a poison that can be extracted from the seeds (i.e. beans) of the castor oil plant. It is alleged that Saaem falsely told law enforcement agents that he purchased castor beans for planting at his apartment for decoration and that he had accidentally purchased 100 packets instead of one. After he spoke to agents, Saaem allegedly researched tasteless poisons that could be made at home.

During a subsequent meeting with law enforcement personnel, Saeem stated that he only intended to purchase castor beans to plant for decoration when, in reality, it is alleged that he purchased them to use to extract ricin.

Mar 17, 2021

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating a potential biological attack aimed at Sedgwick County government, county officials said Monday.

The Sedgwick County Finance Department received a certified letter from a group claiming to be part of a Moorish nationalist group on Monday afternoon. The origin of the letter is under investigation, Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said.

Inside the envelope was a three-page document coated with an unknown white powder later identified in a field test as diaminotoluene, a highly toxic and potentially fatal substance used in dye making. Two employees handled the letter and began to experience symptoms, Stolz said.

One county employee was sent to a Wichita hospital on Monday and is recovering at home, according to a news release from Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Benjamin Blick. Three others had “minor symptoms” of exposure but continued to work on Tuesday, Blick said.

After handling the document, one employee began coughing and another had a skin irritation.

Drugs & Controlled Substances

Mar 13, 2021

Two Madisonville residents were arrested Thursday afternoon following the discovery of 150 pounds of suspected synthetic marijuana and edibles at a U.S. Post Office branch.

Around 5 p.m. on Thursday detectives from multiple agencies responded to the complaint of several “suspicious” packages at a U.S. Post Office branch where it was determined the packages contained 150 pounds of “suspected synthetic marijuana and edibles,” according to police reports.

Responding agencies included the joint Madisonville Police Department and Hopkins County Vice and Narcotics Unit, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police, FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspector, and MPD patrol division.

Mar 18, 2021

Two Lawrence men face drug charges after they received what police said was a package with more than 1,000 grams of cocaine.

Boston police said they were surveilling a Fuller Street address Tuesday afternoon for an incoming package that met the postal service’s criteria of a suspicious package. Officers saw a man put the package in his trunk and drive off.

Police pulled the vehicle over and cut open the package, which had more than 2 pounds of cocaine, authorities said. The 19-year-old driver and 20-year-old passenger were arrested and arraigned in Dorchester District Court on charges of trafficking class B drugs.

Mar 30, 2021

Officers had been alerted to a suspicious package sent from Puerto Rico to the Park Avenue home, and noted multiple packages had come from the Puerto Rico address to the Town of Beloit home in a short time period. The package was confiscated by authorities before being swapped with fake narcotics and being delivered, the complaint said.

A field test showed that two zip lock bags contained approximately 250.89 grams of cocaine. Officers also recovered multiple cellphones, a small amount of marijuana and a 24-inch sawed-off shotgun from the home, per the complaint.

Cruz is charged with conspiracy to commit possession with intent to deliver cocaine.

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International Dangerous Mail Incidents

International threats for the month overall went down from February. March’s events were handled without injury and avoided major shutdowns even though high profile sites were targeted.

Screening did not appear to be in place for the majority of events and the threats were identified by the intended target or through unintentional actions.

Although the amount of drugs decreased there was an overall increase in white powder threats aimed at high profile targets.

Mar 23, 2021

Two staff working at Liberal senator James Paterson’s Melbourne office have needed to decontaminate themselves after a suspicious white powder was sent to the building.

Emergency services were called to Senator Paterson’s office in South Melbourne about 3.40pm on Monday after the staff members opened an envelope containing white powder.

Specialist hazardous materials trained firefighters in personal protective equipment responded to the call and cordoned off the area to prevent further community exposure to the substance. Inside the building, crews found two people who were required to decontaminate as a precaution using an internal shower. A Fire Rescue Victoria spokesman said it was believed neither person came into direct contact with the substance.

Once the pair were decontaminated, they were assessed by paramedics.

Mar 28, 2021

A suspicious package was found at the Military Postal Organization (MPO) in Utrecht, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMar) reported Thursday evening. It concerns a package with a powdery substance, a spokesman for the KMar reports. The MPO sends mail to soldiers abroad.

In addition to the Explosives Clearance Service Defense (EOD), the CBRN Response Unit is also present. This unit within Defense is specialized in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

It is not known in which part of the process the package was discovered. “There were several people at work at that time. They had to go outside,” said the spokesman. It is not clear whether the package has been opened or is still closed. It is also not known whether people are bothered by the substance.

Feb 19, 2021

Police in Lancashire uncovered a huge haul of drugs with a street value of £60,000 ($82,448) after intercepting a ‘suspicious parcel’. The package with ‘obviously false names and addresses’ contained 40,000 Class C tablets in blister packs.

“Due to what was obviously false names and addresses we discovered that the parcel contained 40,000 Class C tablets with a street value of £60k.

“This parcel could have been delivered for it to be collected by the buyer but has been intercepted and passed to Police.
“If the real owner would like to discuss this please get in touch!!”

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