Mail Security Alert, Sep 2021: Bomb Threats Return After 3 Months

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September’s mail threat totals trended downward with fewer total overall incidents reported.  Although the overall number fell, some interesting events occurred in new categories.

Smuggling rose this month, much of it tied to drugs, but with everything from falsified COVID vaccination cards to millions of dollars worth of gems, mail continues to be a significant method of delivery for criminal activities. 

White powder threats stayed on-trend in the total number of events and targeted both international and local leadership as a cheap and easy way to disrupt daily functions.  

Bomb threats returned this month after a three-month lull. 

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United States Mail Security Incidents

September proved to be an interesting month with mailed threats in the United States.

White powder and threatening letters continue on-trend in total numbers, however, the targets have shifted to state and local leadership and away from national-level targets.

This puts smaller cities and governments with fewer response capabilities at a higher risk for exposure and stress on infrastructure.  

Smuggling increased this month in the United States for both drugs and other illicit material.  Much of what was caught was tied to good screening methodologies and solid practices.

Drugs increased in the news inside of jails and prisons highlighting the continual efforts to stop drug-laden legal mail. 

Many states have begun to copy all of the inmate mail except for legal mail which, in most cases, cannot be searched without the prisoner present. 

Oct 1, 2021

Chicago officials have confiscated more fake COVID-19 vaccination cards at O’Hare International Airport. For the second time this month, only this time they seized over 40 counterfeit cards on Sept. 27, 2021.

According to officials, these cards were found by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inside two packages from China. They discovered the fake vaccine cards at the International Mail Facility in Chicago. The official report disclosed that the packages were labeled as holding greeting cards. However, they found 21 fake COVID-19 vaccine cards in one package and 20 in the other.

The director of field operation for the Chicago Field Office, LaFonda Sutton-Burke, explained that these fake vaccination “cards are putting the American population in danger with every card they produce.” The counterfeit cards are very similar to the real U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) certificated given out by health care providers.

Discrepancies and the “low-quality appearance” of the cards made the workers notice they were fake. This parcel was immediately suspected to be suspicious due to the misspellings on the package. Upon opening the parcel custom agents found the 19 counterfeit vaccination cards.

Chicago is not the only place finding these fake cards. Custom agents discovered 1,500 counterfeit cards in Memphis, Tennessee, and Alaska.

Sep 9, 2021

CFR responded because of a suspicious letter being discovered in the mailroom of the Public Safety Center. The package had a white powder spill from the envelope.

The room was secure, with only one Cheyenne Police Department (CPD) occupant at the time. No health threat was identified after testing occurred on the substance conducted by CFR hazardous materials technicians.

Sep 2, 2021

Several Idaho lawmakers have been receiving threats in the mail over how they voted on laws in this year’s session that intend to reduce wolf numbers in the state.

An unsigned letter reads “just as the wolf went from predator to prey, so shall you. It is not your place to play god, but if you will then so shall I.”

At least 3 lawmakers have reportedly received the threatening letters, including House Speaker Scott Bedke, Rep. Carolyn Nilsson Troy of Genesee, and Rep. Mike Kingsley of Lewiston. “Sad people can’t make a point without resorting to threat,” said Kingsley.

Sep 9, 2021

A Pennsylvania woman and an inmate were charged with smuggling drugs through the mail into a Delaware County jail, authorities said. 

Working with the members of the Narcotics Task Force, during February through August, the mailroom staff at George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Concord intercepted eight packages containing synthetic cannabinoids and suboxone, according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

Sep 13, 2021

An emergency and HAZMAT response call made as a precaution turned out to be a dud in Wausau Monday. A call came in just after 3:00 pm for a suspicious package delivered to a satellite office for Congressman Tom Tiffany off Stewart Avenue. The call warranted response from Police, Fire, and Wausau’s HAZMAT squad.

Officials were told this office typically doesn’t receive deliveries, and the weight was concerning. However, the building was not evacuated during the investigation. The box was eventually found containing a simple brick, along with a letter.

Sep 17, 2021

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office wraps up a month-long investigation that resulted in two people being arrested. Investigation efforts began on August 11 when investigators intercepted suspicious packages from Leary to an unlisted inmate in the jail.

The investigation later revealed through phone tracking that Leary and Corr plotted to have multiple packages sent to an unaware inmate living in the same housing dorm as Corr — one of them containing illegal narcotics. However, once the packages made it into the jail, Corr was reportedly supposed to intercept the package that contained the drugs.

Leary then attempted to jump into her vehicle and close the door on the investigator. She reportedly had to be forcefully removed from her car, but was able to burn the investigator on the arm with a cigarette first.

Sep 15, 2021

A suspicious package sent from Florida containing biohazardous materials to a medical facility in Palmer is now under investigation.

On September 13th, 2021 at approximately 9:50 A M Alaska State Troopers responded to a report of a suspicious package delivered to a local medical facility in Palmer. Investigation revealed the package contained a flyer with religious statements and a QR code, along with three vials of suspected biohazardous material. FBI EOD technicians responded and verified the contents of the vials to be human waste and biological fluids.

The package and its contents were disposed of per biohazard waste removal standards. The suspect is believed be a woman in Florida and appears to be suffering from mental health-related issues. Outside agencies were contacted for assistance, however, she has not been positively identified. No injuries were reported associated with this incident.

Sep 22, 2021

A package recently mailed from California to South Jersey got a very special delivery, authorities say. Law enforcement officers burst into a Camden home Monday night to arrest a man accused of receiving the parcel, which had held eight pounds of suspected methamphetamine at the start of its cross-country shipment, authorities say.

By that time, someone had scrawled a message on the package that claimed it had been delivered to the wrong address and possibly held deadly anthrax, says a criminal complaint against the suspect, 36-year-old Michael Venditti of Camden. That’s a common tactic for people transporting illegal drugs being shipped by mail, according to an affidavit prepared by a U.S. Postal Inspector.

Sep 24, 2021

A Delaware couple remained jailed Tuesday after a report of a suspicious package at the Elkton branch of the U.S. Post Office led to investigators confiscating more than two pounds of suspect methamphetamine, according to Cecil County District Court records.

The investigation started on Sept. 21, when a postal inspector contacted an Elkton Police Department detective and alerted that a woman had just picked up what he deemed to be a “suspicious package” at the Elkton Post Office and then left in a black Nissan Altima, police reported.

Court records show that Dukes and Broomer are each facing five charges, including felony counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a large amount of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school zone, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Sep 27 , 2021

Colorado resident Krystyl Johnson is accused of mailing three suspicious packages to Benjamin Rhodes, an inmate at the Oklahoma County Detention Center a year ago.  Officials said smuggling drugs into the jail is more common than you think. 

“As always, we get hit from all sides. People try to sneak it in, some people during visitation try and sneak it in, we’ve arrested some detention officers trying to sneak it in,” said Mark Opgrande, the Oklahoma County Detention Center communications director.  An affidavit obtained stated that the packages had “an unusual feel to them” and were marked “legal mail.

When the mailroom employee opened one it had a white crystal-like substance and a brown leafy substance inside. “When the first package came in, it was marked ‘legal mail.’ Most cases with legal mail that is something that is not searched. In this case the package felt odd,” said Opgrande. “They could tell there was something else in there.”  

Court documents stated Johnson also labeled them with the information to a law firm in Colorado. “That law firm said that they have no clients in Oklahoma, and they have no reason to send a package to Oklahoma. When they first opened that package up that’s when they found methamphetamine, marijuana heroin and tobacco in there,” said Opgrande.

Sep 29, 2021

A steaming, freshly baked loaf of bread led to the evacuation of the U.S. post office on West Manor Drive, the closure of nearby streets and a call to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s bomb squad on Saturday. Of course, authorities didn’t know that at the time.

It all started at 5:05 p.m. on Sept. 25, when postal employees called 911 to report a suspicious package. They said the package was warm to the touch, smoking and it appeared the box was turning black. The Pacifica Police Department and North County Fire Authority personnel scrambled to the scene. First-responders decided to call in the bomb squad to assess the package. The building was evacuated and adjacent streets closed to traffic. Nearby residents were told to shelter in place.

Forty minutes later the bomb squad arrived and, according to a release from the police department, “at approximately 6:20 p.m., the bomb squad personnel determined the package did not contain any harmful material.”

What was in it? “It was described as a ‘freshly baked loaf of bread,”.

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International Mail Security Incidents

International events this month highlight the vast impact that mail can have on daily life and the strange places it can originate.

 Drugs shipped from the British House of Commons, that passed through multiple screening efforts and were delivered to an inmate at a state prison, show that anything can be a threat regardless of its appearance.  

Overall drugs stayed on-trend overseas in September with an increase in the amount per package rising.  Packages of pills, for example, have given way to larger amounts of raw material that require further processing.  

Mail has increased as a method of smuggling internationally recently tied to the return of stricter border controls.  From gems in Pakistan to gold out of African, smuggling attempts are continuing at a high rate and extra screening efforts should be applied to “out of place” packages.

 

Sep 13, 2021

A suspicious item, reported to be white powder, has been found in an envelope one floor below New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office. Specialist fire service units have been called to New Zealand’s parliamentary precinct on Monday morning after the discovery of the package, which was sent to Ms Ardern.

The item was picked up in the mail room of level eight of the Beehive, the executive wing of the country’s parliament buildings. Ms Ardern was at work on level nine, ahead of chairing a lunchtime cabinet meeting on level 10.

Sep 23, 2021

A suspicious letter left in the lift at Yare Plaza, one of the biggest shopping malls in Eastleigh, Nairobi County, caused panic in the city’s neighbourhood on Thursday, September 23.

The letter indicated that there was an explosive device in the building. Starehe Sub County Police Commander Julius Kiragu confirmed the incident, noting that a search operation was being conducted at the mall. The letter added that the bomb had been programmed to go off anytime from 1pm.

By the time of going to press, tenants and shoppers had been evacuated from the busy mall and the towers cordoned.

Sep 12, 2021

Jail bosses have launched an investigation after the reply to the lag fell foul of sophisticated drug screening equipment and was not passed on. When the letter — written on House of Commons headed note-paper — arrived at the jail, it was found to have been exposed to a significant amount of ecstasy powder MDMA. Further investigation showed the envelope and letter, franked with the postmark of the House of Commons, contained traces of the drug, it was revealed last night.

A prison source said: “It was a very odd case but someone who has handled the letter somewhere along the line could have had enough on their hands for our scanners to pick up.”

The letter was sent by a junior official in the Palace of Westminster on March 22 to HMP Coldingley in Surrey. The inmate had requested information from the Commons’ library, which holds statistics and reports about parliamentary matters.

Sep 25, 2021

Customs authorities on Saturday foiled a bid to smuggle precious stones worth over Rs11 million in the country at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, ARY NEWS reported. According to Customs’ spokesman, the Karachi airport’s collectorate acted timely to foil a bid to smuggle precious stones from the airport.

“A suspicious parcel from a gulf country was seized at the Karachi airport and the authorities found precious stones worth around Rs11.1 million,” he said. Seven different precious stones were recovered from a package booked as a textile material under the name of a woman named Shehzadi.

“We have expanded the sphere of the investigations to arrest suspects who would have to receive the parcel at the airport,” they said.

Sep 22, 2021

What was first believed to be a suspicious package turned out to be a smelly letter.

The Collingwood OPP was called at about 9:20 a.m. Tuesday by the Canada Post office in Thornbury with reports of a package emitting a strange odour. Investigators dug deeper and say they discovered a letter had been dipped in a harmless substance to enhance the fragrance of the parcel.

The incident was deemed non-suspicious. Collingwood OPP is reminding residents that parcels emitting a strange odour will be flagged and investigated.

Sep 17, 2021

A 34-year-old Northern Territory man has been charged with allegedly importing four kilograms of an illegal hallucinogenic drug from Mexico, after a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Northern Territory Police. The illicit drugs were allegedly concealed inside four packets labelled as “natural dye” sent in the mail from Mexico and intercepted by ABF officers earlier this month.

Tests on the substance returned a presumptive result for N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a border controlled hallucinogenic tryptamine drug. The drugs were removed from the package before it was delivered to a Darwin address.

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