Mail Security Alert, May 2021: White Powder, Drugs & Package Bombs

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As the world climbs out of the pandemic, mail threats have increased.  Global events utilizing white powder threats grew significantly in May. 

The wide swath of targets included the federal level with obvious friction points to private individuals with no easy way to always know why.  With the news cycle shifting from the pandemic to new topics these events received more attention than recently.

The white powder remains the most common threat, and once again we see the frustration that even a little bit of powder can cause when it’s not properly detected.  The United States Senator Rand Paul, Arizona Republican leadership, and high-level Hong Kong government individuals were all hit this month, among others. Each time benign powder drove the headlines.  

Other illicit items included drugs, weapons, and contraband.  Most of the threats were handled by local police and brought local charges.  We expect these events to rise as the world re-opens and increases its dependency on mail.

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United States Mail Security Incidents

Drugs and racially-motivated threatening letters sent through the mail increased substantially in May.

The United States saw several events of note in May.  White powder and hazardous materials targeted key Republican leadership causing evacuations and national news coverage of the response.  Most likely driven by political frustrations, these actions have federal ramifications and are being investigated as such.  Both offices and private homes were affected and evacuated while first responders cleared the sites.

Drugs and hazardous materials continued this month with prison staff sickened, fire departments evacuated, and dealers arrested for using the USPS to distribute.  

Bad marketing/messaging causes significant problems and another piece of mail popped up with the header “Open Please Anthrax Inside”.  Paying attention to the possible reaction of the person on the other end of the mail is a good idea when doing something out of the norm.  

May 24, 2021

An unknown person mailed a package containing suspicious white powder to the home of Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. It’s the second instance of a Republican official being sent white powder to occur in the last 10 days of May.

The package reportedly had a picture of Paul in bandages with a gun pointed at his head. It also contained the quote, “I’ll finish what your neighbor started you motherf*cker,” according to Fox News. Paul’s neighbor assaulted him in 2017.

Capitol Hill police and FBI’s Louisville office are working with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the package’s forensic evidence, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal. Legal authorities have not yet stated what the powder is, whether it’s harmful, the suspected sender, or their possible motive.

“I take these threats immensely seriously,” Paul wrote on Twitter. “As a repeated target of violence, it is reprehensible that Twitter allows C-list celebrities to encourage violence against me and my family.”

May 21, 2021

The Arizona Department of Public Safety has confirmed that it is investigating after a suspicious package was found Wednesday afternoon at the Arizona Senate building in downtown Phoenix.

DPS Public Information Officer Bart Graves said in an email that DPS received a call on Wednesday regarding a suspicious package. The DPS Hazardous Materials Response Unit secured the unknown package and sent it to the DPS Crime Lab.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen said in a tweet late Wednesday that the package contained an “unidentified white powder” and that it was sent to the office of Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, who is leading the audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election.

“The personal attacks on @FannKfann by some media and others is truly disturbing. If you don’t agree with the policy, disagree with it but no need to attack her personally. Now, this. Today someone sent an unidentified white powder to her office. Not OK folks. DPS is investigating,” read Petersen’s tweet.

May 25, 2021

Officers from the Manassas City Police Department responded to a suspicious incident in the 9300 block of Prescott Avenue around 1:30 p.m. A woman reported finding an envelope in her mailbox with the words “Open please anthrax inside” written on the outside. 

In the course of their investigation, police determined that the envelope was not a credible threat. In fact, it contained a thank you note instead.

 

May 4, 2021

Two employees of a secure treatment facility for sex offenders in DeSoto County were hospitalized briefly Monday after a suspicious package was received at the facility, officials said.

A county spokeswoman said Tuesday that a letter was received and opened yesterday at the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia.

After handling the letter, two employees felt sick and were transported to the hospital as a precaution.

The Florida Civil Commitment Center is a privately run, secure treatment facility housing dangerous sex offenders who have been ordered to be involuntary and indefinitely committed.

The spokeswoman said the Charlotte County hazmat team was called in. According to officials, the piece of mail was tested but nothing suspicious was found. The two employees were released from the hospital yesterday afternoon.

May 17, 2021

A firehouse was evacuated and a nearby Roslindale street was shut down Monday night after a suspicious package containing an unknown chemical was discovered.

The suspicious package came in the mail to a Brooke Street home, prompting a resident to bring the package to the nearby firehouse on Canterbury Street, fire officials said.

Two firefighters performed preliminary tests on the package outside the station, while crews did readings at the home on Brooke Street.

Four residents and two firefighters were decontaminated as a precaution, fire officials said.

May 21, 2021

According to a release from the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO), A Nacogdoches man was arrested Thursday afternoon after an ongoing investigation into the distribution of methamphetamine in Nacogdoches County. Over the course of the last several months, deputies with the Sheriff’s Office have made several arrests involving possession cases of methamphetamine. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office were able to identify an alleged distributor of the narcotic, identified as Jacob Miller.

Over a period of several months, the Sheriff’s Office was able to identify that the suspect was believed to be dealing large amounts of methamphetamine. Investigators were able to identify that the suspect was receiving his narcotics through a supplier out of California and was using the mail to ship the narcotics to Nacogdoches County.

Sheriff Investigators notified a United States Postal Inspector and requested assistance with the investigation. On Monday, May 17, a suspicious package was intercepted by the postal inspector that was destined to the target of this investigation.

The package was removed from the mail, and a certified K-9 police dog conducted a free air search of the package which alerted to the presence of narcotics. A search warrant was obtained for the package which revealed 15 ounces of crystal methamphetamine.

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International Mail Security Incidents

Intimidation and threats through mail against political leadership caught significant press and forced public statements.

International targets were highly political and overall intended to force shutdowns and physical harm.  Government leadership around the world was singled out with mail-borne threats, often due to perceptions of failure when dealing with the pandemic and its related economic crises.  Many of the governments seemed unprepared to detect the threats.

A rash of package bombs in Myanmar aimed at ousted leadership in hiding is expected to continue.  This mirrors events of recently mailed bombs in several surrounding countries and might set off a new set of events in the region.  

Drug smuggling through the mail continued between countries with several new types of drugs and tactics.  Pre-packaged “Party Drugs” were the highlight of the month that were found in several countries. 

Apr 28, 2021

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor and two high-ranking government officials received letters containing suspicious powder, according to sources.

The two officials were Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-Chui and Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-Keung. 

It was understood that the offices of Lam and Lee received the letters containing unknown powder at around 3 pm today. 

Tang also received a letter containing flour in his office at the Police Headquarters at around 10 am on April 28th. 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau of the force sent officers to the Police Headquarters in Wan Chai and the Central Government Offices in Admiralty to investigate the incident. 

Officers are now investigating the identity of the sender and relevant motives. Water-filled barriers were set up outside the Office of Chief Executive, with armed special constables stationed.

May 4, 2021

Five people including an outed lawmaker and three police defectors were killed in a blast from a parcel bomb while hiding in a house in the city of Bago, 70 kilometers from Yangon, according to local media reports.

Thet Win Hlaing, a regional lawmaker from the National League for Democracy, the party overthrown in the February 1 coup and whose leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest, was among those killed in the incident.

 

May 10, 2021

Drugs are increasingly being ferried into New Zealand through the mailboxes of unsuspecting Wellingtonians, with police warning residents in the capital to be wary of mysterious packages.

Police have asked people to alert them to the arrival of parcels not addressed to them, that they didn’t order, stating that the hilly western suburbs seemed to be a popular target for drug importers.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch said in recent weeks eight people have reported receiving the parcels in Brooklyn, Vogeltown, Karori, Wadestown, and the western Hutt hill suburbs.

A substance found in one parcel seized was found to be a methamphetamine-like substitute that is so rarely seen in New Zealand there is no legislation against it yet.

The drug, Isopropylbenzylamine, has previously come to the attention of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) due to it being used by meth manufacturers as a diluent or substitute for meth.

May 25, 2021

A ‘suspicious powder’ delivered in an envelope to a city center office block was ‘non-toxic’, police have confirmed.

Piccadilly Gate on Store Street was evacuated as a precaution after the incident at around 2.30 pm on May 24th.

A huge emergency service presence was sparked and the road was closed off. A GMP spokesperson said yesterday that ‘an unknown white power had been delivered’ to the office block.

“The alarm on the building was going off and staff had been evacuated into the car park.

“The last time I saw something like this it was an anthrax alert in London.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education declined to comment on the incident.

Apr 9, 2021

Bureau of Customs-Port of NAIA (BOC-NAIA) agents have uncovered over P3 million worth of ķetamine “party drugs” from a package declared as “snacks”

Upon physical examination, the package yielded 622 grams of ketamine concealed in 15 sachets of white coffee. The value of the illegal drug was pegged at P3,110,000.

Ketamine, also known as “Special K” or “K”, was originally created as anesthetics. It is now commonly used as a party drug for its tranquilizing effects.

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