Federal investigators announced this afternoon a Spokane man charged with mailing a poison-laced letter to a federal judge may also be connected to three newly uncovered threatening letters sent to President Obama, the Central Intelligence Agency and Fairchild Air Force Base.
Matthew R. Buquet, 38, of Spokane, already faces one federal charge of mailing threatening communications for allegedly sending a letter containing the poison ricin to U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle earlier this month. The letter was intercepted May 14 along with a second poisoned letter addressed to the downtown Spokane Post Office.
Buquet has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to the charge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports today authorities intercepted two additional letters with similar writing and postal markings on May 22. One letter, addressed to Obama, has since tested positive for the poison ricin.
The other letter, uncovered the same day Buquet was arrested in Browne's Addition, had been addressed to Fairchild Air Force Base and continues to undergo analysis.
Authorities have now seized four letters total, with three testing positive for ricin.
"The four envelopes in the possession of law enforcement officials were postmarked in Spokane on May 13, 2013," the FBI reports. "Each addressee was handwritten in red ink."
The FBI warns investigators believe a fifth letter was sent to the CIA, postmarked from Spokane on May 13. That letter has not yet been recovered.
"In the unlikely event a letter fitting this description is encountered by a member of the public," the FBI warns, "the envelope should not be opened or handled and law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately."
Ricin is a deadly poison derived from castor beans, but no injuries have been reported in connection with any of the letters.
The full news release:
A letter containing a suspicious substance and a threat to a Federal District Court Judge in Spokane was intercepted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the U.S. Post Office on W. Riverside Avenue in Spokane, Washington. Subsequent analysis performed by the Spokane Regional Health District, and later confirmed by the FBI at the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC), indicated the substance in the letter contained active ricin toxin.
On May 22, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested MATTHEW RYAN BUQUET, 38, for allegedly sending the letter. Earlier that day, he was charged by a one-count grand jury indictment for mailing threatening communications.
A total of five similar letters have been seized or detected:
1. Letter sent to the Federal District Court Judge in Spokane, intercepted on May 14, 2013;
2. Letter sent to the W. Riverside Post Office in Spokane, intercepted on May 14, 2013;
3. Letter sent to the President of the United States in Washington, D.C., intercepted on May 22, 2013;
4. Letter sent to Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, located on May 22, 2013; and,
5. Letter sent to the Central Intelligence Agency, detected on May 22, 2013.
Subsequent analysis by the FBI at the NBFAC indicated the substance in the letters sent to the President of the United States, the Federal District Court Judge, and the Spokane Post Office contained active ricin toxin. The contents of the Fairchild letter continue to undergo testing at the NBFAC.
Investigators have determined that the fifth letter, addressed in a manner consistent with the first four envelopes, was sent to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This letter was addressed to a location that does not receive mail deliveries. As of May 30, 2013, this letter has not been located.
The four envelopes in the possession of law enforcement officials were postmarked in Spokane on May 13, 2013. Each addressee was handwritten in red ink. The fifth letter, with a handwritten address of “Central Intelligence Agency” in McLean, Virginia, was probably also postmarked on May 13, 2013 and penned in red ink.
In the unlikely event a letter fitting this description is encountered by a member of the public, the envelope should not be opened or handled and law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. Ricin poisoning can occur when the substance enters the body through ingestion, inhalation, or injection.
To date, the FBI is not aware of any illness as a result of exposure to these letters. Public health questions should be directed to public health officials. In the State of Washington, the Department of Health may be contacted at 800-525-0127.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington is fully engaged in this matter, and has made no comment on whether additional charges may be sought in connection with the continuing FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigation.