March 12, 1998 in Nation/World

Man Accused Of Using Letter To Make Anthrax Threat Police Say ‘Powdery Substance’ Was Sent With Payment To Collection Agency

Susie Steckner Arizona Republic
 

Lawrence Edward Pagnano had a $53 payment due, so he sent a oney order for that amount to a Phoenix collection agency.

But the envelope also contained a “black and white speckled powdery substance” and a letter stating: “You S.O.B.!!!! You have just been exposed to anthrax spores prepare to die,” according to federal court documents.

The envelope also included Pagnano’s name and address, allowing federal authorities to nab him at home Tuesday in Reno.

Pagnano, 42, a waste-management worker, was arrested Tuesday about 11 p.m. He was indicted Wednesday on federal charges of mailing threatening communications and threatened use of weapons of mass destruction.

He faces a maximum of five years or a $250,000 fine, or both, for the first charge, and up to life imprisonment for the second charge.

Authorities are awaiting lab results to determine whether the letter actually contained the deadly anthrax bacterium. But Phoenix police and fire officials have said that is unlikely.

None of the people who came in contact with the letter has reported having any flulike symptoms associated with the bacteria, Jennifer Pool, spokeswoman for Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, said Wednesday.

According to court documents, the envelope contained a collection notice sent by Recovery Technologies to Lawrence Pagnano and a money order for $53.99 made payable to the business.

In the handwritten letter, the writer states, “you better have a coffin ready.”

“Also a standard pestelence (sic) has been put on you and your family and your organization and everybody associated with Smiths grocery stores,” court records show.

The envelope was postmarked March 7 from Reno and listed Pagnano’s home as the return address.

Earlier this month, two men were arrested in Las Vegas on biological-weapons charges when authorities there believed they were in possession of the deadly bacteria. The charges were dropped after tests showed the material in their possession was a harmless vaccine.

Phoenix FBI spokesman Jack Callahan said authorities did not know whether that incident prompted Pagnano’s reported threat.

The letter was received by employees at Recovery Technologies, about noon Tuesday.

Emergency crews immediately quarantined nine employees and a Phoenix police officer who responded to the scene, evacuated nearby businesses and shut down a stretch of Thomas Road for several hours.


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