May 22, 2013

Suspect in Spokane ricin letters indicted

 

A suspect was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in connection with the two ricin-laced letters sent by mail, one of which contained threats against U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Matthew R. Buquet, 38, whose apartment was searched Saturday by federal agents, made a preliminary appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Spokane after being indicted on one count of mailing threatening communication. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

The suspect describes himself as a native of Bogota, Colombia, on a social media.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno entered a preliminary plea of not guilty on Buquet’s behalf and ordered a bail hearing for Tuesday afternoon. Imbrogno ordered a bail report prior to the hearing.

Imbrogno asked if there were any illnesses or problems that would prevent the defendant from answering her questions.

Attorney Bob Fischer of the federal defender’s service told the judge that he had recently taken medication, but he did not indicate the type of medication.

Buquet then answered the magistrate’s questions.

Last weekend, federal agents searched a Browne’s Addition apartment as part of the probe.

The FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Spokane police took part in the operation. Some agents wore hazardous materials gear to protect against possible contamination from ricin, a deadly poison.

Two letters were seized last week during routine screening at a postal processing facility in Spokane, according to the postal service.

The postal service said a preliminary test of the letters indicated that they held ricin.

Federal law enforcement authorities have provided no other details.

Ricin is a deadly poison made from the bean of the castor oil plant.

The U.S. Postal Service told postal worker union members last week that they had no reason to believe any employees were at risk from handling the suspect letters as they passed through the mail stream in Spokane.

The postal service said preliminary tests on the letters showed the presence of ricin, but the substance was in a form that could not easily be inhaled or ingested.

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