Kremmling man pleads guilty in terrorism hoax case
Grand County, CO Colorado
Matthew O’Neill, 52, of Kremmling faces up to five years in federal prison and as much as $250,000 in fines after pleading guilty late last week to one count of providing false information related to a terrorism offense, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver.
O’Neill was originally charged on May 27, 2011, and was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 6, 2011.
According to stipulated facts in the plea agreement, on May 25, 2011, a mail room employee with the Colorado Department of Revenue in Denver received a manila envelope with a return address of “M. O’Neill … Kremmling CO.” The envelope had postal markings on it indicating that it originated from the Kremmling Post Office.
The mail room employee opened the envelope and routed it to the intended recipient, who placed the envelope on her desk, at which point an unidentified white powder fell out of the envelope onto the desk. Believing they had both been exposed to some kind of harmful chemical or biological substance, the two attempted to decontaminate themselves by washing their hands. They then waited for the Denver Fire Department and the Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) team. The building was subsequently evacuated.
The Denver Fire Department’s HAZMAT team field tested the powder in the envelope, which turned out to be sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
The Department of Revenue’s intended recipient was interviewed and told investigators that O’Neill had sent several documents indicating he believes he does not have to pay state or federal taxes. She further stated that she felt threatened by the contents of the envelope, fearing that the white powder was some sort of harmful substance.
The FBI and a U.S. Postal Inspector interviewed a U.S. Postal employee in Kremmling. The postal employee stated that on May 17, 2011, O’Neil was in the facility, filled out documents for certified or registered mail. He then left and re-entered several times before finally mailing the envelope.
O’Neill was questioned on May 31, 2011, by law enforcement. During that interview it was determined that he mailed the package with white powder with hopes of leading the Department of Revenue to believe they were receiving a dangerous biological or chemical agent.
“Those who mail a threat, especially one containing material simulating a biological or chemical agent, will face felony criminal consequences,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
“All threatening communications are taken seriously, the recipient of these types of threats cannot determine the true nature of the implied, or stated danger,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge James Yacone. “The FBI wants to remind everyone that mailing a threatening communication that contains a hoax of any kind in a parcel will be aggressively investigated.
“We will continue to respond to such threats, along with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, through the combined resources of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
“Though the powder contained in the mailing was not harmful, the threatening mailings not only constitute a federal crime but cause alarm to victims and victim institutions,” said Denver Division Acting Postal Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke.
This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Colorado State Patrol through the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
O’Neill is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Barrett and is scheduled for sentencing on June 4 by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger.
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