Letters Never Reached Intended Targets, Intercepted At Facilities In Maryland

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A person was arrested Wednesday in the wake of yet another poison letter scare in Washington, D.C. — this time targeting President Barack Obama, himself.

There have been two typewritten letters so far, one to the president and one to a U.S. senator. Preliminary tests by the FBI revealed they both contain the deadly toxin ricin.

A Mississippi justice official also may have received a letter, authorities said.

“Today at approximately 5:15 p.m. (CDT) FBI Special Agents arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, the individual believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service which contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin. The letters were addressed to a U.S. Senator, the White House and a Mississippi justice official,” the Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday, later adding that Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth, Miss.

The case is being prosecuted in Jackson, Miss., CBS News reported.

If just a few grains of the poison are inhaled, it can be lethal, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.

The letters intended for the president and senator were undergoing further testing because preliminary field tests can be unreliable, creating false positives, officials said.

“Anytime suspicious powder is located in a mail facility, field tests are conducted. The field and other preliminary tests can produce inconsistent results,” the FBI said in a statement. “Anytime field tests indicate the possibility of a biological agent, the material is sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis.”

The Secret Service said the second letter was addressed to President Obama. This comes a day after a similar letter was sent to Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

But the letters never made it to Washington. They were intercepted at processing facilities in Maryland, officials said.

“Materials that are suspicious or believed to be suspicious at remote locations are then sent for secondary and more intense testing,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Both letters were postmarked Memphis and said: “To see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

Both are signed: “I am KC and I approve this message.”

The FBI said there is no indication of a connection to the Boston bombings. In fact, the letters were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.

“Various individuals sit there and wait for the right moment to make a statement to the government, statement to the country that they are capable of doing something,” said terror expert Maki Haberfeld of John Jay College.

Haberfeld said the coincidental timing brings to mind the anthrax attacks that occurred after 9/11, and she said this case may not be easy to crack.

“They are difficult to solve because, as opposed to anthrax, ricin is not very difficult to obtain. It’s used in various drugs that are used to treat cancer, so availability of the drugs makes it difficult for law enforcement to trace the people, the individual people who have access,” Haberfeld said.

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