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Crime

US Navy veteran charged with sending ricin poison mail threat to Donald Trump and Pentagon

Authorities zeroed in on the suspect after finding his return address on at least two of the envelopes; he told police he also sent similar letters to Queen Elizabeth and Russian President Vladimir Putin

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 3:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 4:13am

A Navy veteran in Utah was charged on Friday with threatening to use a biological toxin as a weapon by sending letters to US President Donald Trump and other leaders containing ground castor beans, the substance from which the poison ricin is derived.

William Clyde Allen III, 39, told investigators he wanted the letters to “send a message”, though he did not elaborate, FBI investigators said in documents filed in US District Court of Utah. Authorities zeroed in on Allen after finding his return address on at least two of the envelopes, according to the complaint.

The envelopes also had a note that said “Jack and the Missile Bean Stock Powder”, the documents said.

US Attorney for Utah John Huber declined to comment on Allen’s mental state, but said the case is “no laughing matter”. “When you’re dealing with suspected ricin, this is nothing to trifle with,” Huber said.

When you’re dealing with suspected ricin, this is nothing to trifle with
John Huber, US lawyer for Utah

During a court hearing Friday, Allen cried as he told a judge that his wife suffers from a spinal condition and he helps her put on her shoes in the morning.

He did not enter a plea, and his lawyer, Lynn Donaldson, did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

Allen could face up to life in prison if convicted on the biological toxin charge, one of five counts in the complaint. He is also charged with four counts of making threats through the mail, which carry 10-year sentences.

The envelopes were mailed to the president, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Defence Secretary James Mattis and the Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson, authorities said.

They were intercepted and no one was hurt. The FBI said all of the letters tested positive for ricin.

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Allen told police he also sent similar letters to Queen Elizabeth, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the secretary of the Air Force, though it is not clear whether those envelopes or ones matching their description been found.

The case is expected to go before a grand jury and Allen could face additional charges at a hearing set for October 18.

Allen was arrested Wednesday at his house in the small city of Logan, north of Salt Lake City. He told investigators he had bought castor beans on eBay “in case Word War III broke out”, so he could “defend our nation”.

He is being held on a US$25,000 cash-only bond, though US Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead is expected to review that on October 15.

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Allen served in the Navy from 1998 to 2002, according to Navy records. He has a criminal record in Utah including child abuse and attempted aggravated assault.

He was questioned by the Secret Service in 2015 after an emailed threat against President Barack Obama, investigators said in court documents. He has also made email threats to the Air Force and Utah Governor Gary Herbert, police have said.