Last night, the U.S. Attorney's Office sent word that at 11 a.m. today there would a media conference at the Earle Cabell Federal Building downtown "to announce developments in a pending investigation." This morning, a second missive arrived with further details: Acting U.S. Attorney James Jacks; Robert Casey Jr., the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Dallas office; and Randall Till, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division, will meet the press "to announce an arrest in the Amarillo, Texas, white powder letters investigation."
As you no doubt recall, in October more than 30 envelopes containing a harmless white powder -- consisting of calcium -- were sent to Chase branch offices around the country, including Dallas, accompanied by "a threatening communication," pictured above. At the time, federal investigators believed those letters originated from Amarillo. Said an FBI spokesman at the time, "even sending a hoax letter is a serious crime."
Update: Mark White, a spokesman in the Dallas FBI office, confirms this arrest is in conjunction with the October letters sent to banks and not December letters sent to governors' offices and U.S. embassies. He also tells Unfair Park the suspect is being held out of state.
Update to the Update: The suspect's name is Richard Leon Goyette, a/k/a Michael Jurek, a 47-year-old man arrested yesterday at the airport in Albuquerque. The U.S. Attorney's Office press release follows in full after the jump.
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MAN ARRESTED IN NEW MEXICO FOR SENDING THREATENING WHITE-POWDER LACED HOAX LETTERS TO BANKS ACROSS THE U.S.
DALLAS -- At a press conference held today in Dallas, acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas, Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI, and Randall C. Till, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, announced that special agents and postal inspectors arrested Richard Leon Goyette, a/k/a Michael Jurek, 47, yesterday at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a charge in a federal complaint related to his mailing 65 threatening letters to financial institutions in October 2008. Sixty-four of the 65 letters contained an unidentified white power, along with a threat that the person breathing the powder would die within 10 days. The powder tested negative for any hazardous materials. All 65 threat letters were mailed through the U.S. Postal Service and were postmarked from Amarillo, Texas, on October 18, 2008. Goyette is scheduled to make his initial appearance today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Albuquerque.
"Mr. Goyette's alleged criminal actions caused emergency responders and hazardous response teams immense unnecessary labor and expense, diverted personnel from actual emergencies, completely disrupted business at these financial institutions, and caused untold emotional distress to those who received the letters," said acting U.S. Attorney Jacks. "Those who send threatening letters, whether they contain white powder or not, even if their threat is a hoax, will be prosecuted with the full resources of this office," Jacks continued.
Robert E. Casey, Jr. stated "I would like to thank the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the FBI Agents from the Albuquerque and Dallas FBI Offices whose determination, methodical investigation, and expertise led to today's developments. Sending a hoax letter threatening imminent death and containing unknown substances is a serious crime that drains precious, limited, first responder resources. The mailings resulted in police, fire, and hazmat teams responding to emergency calls in numerous states, causing anxiety, disruption, and financial costs. As the arrest in Albuquerque reflects, these crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted."
"Richard Goyette's arrest as the mailer of the "Chase Bank letters" should serve as a warning to those who believe they can anonymously use the mail to terrorize the American public," said Inspector in Charge Till. "As Postal Inspectors, our mission is to ensure the safety of the Postal Service and we will spare no resource to uncover your identity and to bring you to justice. The American public should know this arrest is the result of exceptional interagency cooperation between U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Offices in the Northern District of Texas and the District of New Mexico, as well as the numerous state and local agencies throughout the U.S. that responded to the more than 60 letters mailed by the suspect."
The criminal complaint charges that on October 18, 2008, Goyette knowingly and intentionally conveyed false and misleading information when he sent letters to Chase Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) that contained an unknown white powder and the threat that the person breathing the powder would die within 10 days, in violation of 18 USC § 1038. Each offense carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
On September 25, 2008, the OTS seized Washington Mutual Bank from its holding company, Washington Mutual, Inc., and placed it into receivership. The FDIC was named receiver and as a result, the value of the stock in the holding company, Washington Mutual, Inc., fell to less than one dollar per share. The following day, the FDIC sold the bank's deposits, branches, and loan portfolio to JP Morgan Chase & Co.
On September 26, 2008, and September 29, 2008, a person using "firstname.lastname@example.org" sent two emails to OTS, both critical of the handling of the Washington Mutual Bank closure and subsequent sale of assets to JP Morgan Chase & Co. In the September 26, 2008 email, he said he lost $63,525 on his stock in Washington Mutual, Inc. He also accused OTS and FDIC of being corrupt and accused JP Morgan Chase of "shaft[ing] a second set of shareholders." He sent a nearly identical email to the FDIC that same day.
In the September 29, 2008, email from "email@example.com" to OTS, the writer provided his name and address as Richard Goyette, PO Box 2322, Tijeras, NM. He stated in part:Goyette sent a nearly identical email to the FDIC that same day, September 29, 2008. On October 7, 2008, he sent an email to an attorney who had been retained to handle investor inquires for Washington Mutual and in that email stated "[I will] most likely have to employ the same type of tactics used to cheat WaMu shareholders to recover stolen assets if all meaningful efforts to rectify this situation don't come to fruition."
"I told myself I was not going to accept anymore losses due to the reasons I mentioned. I have pursued a path of doing things right, but unfortunately I've paid a terrible price for those who will do whatever it takes to defraud, steal, manipulate, and screw over average stockholders. This seizure was the final straw and I will now pursue any path to get the return of my investment. Since legal means are apparently useless, I will have to consider any viable method applicable to rightfully reclaim my stolen funds."
On October 20, 2008, anonymous threat letters began arriving at Chase Bank, OTS, and FDIC offices nationwide. Over the next several days, a total of 65 threat letters were received in 11 different states and the District of Columbia. Also included in the letters was the sentence fragment "Steal tens of thousands of people's money and not expect reprecussions(sic)."
The 65th letter to JP Morgan Chase & Co. did not contain white powder but included a threat of the "McVeighing of your corporate headquarters within six months." This letter also threatened to "utilize any strategy and tactic to inflict financial damage to your company."
The investigation revealed that a computer in a library on the University of New Mexico's Albuquerque campus was used in early October to access Chase's web site and search for addresses for nearly all of the Chase Bank locations that later received white powder threat letters. The same computer was used the same day to access OTS's website and search for all the OTS office locations that later received white powder threat letters. It was also used the same day to access the FDIC's website. Richard Goyette's listed his address in the emails as Tijeras, New Mexico, which is a small community located on the outskirts of Albuquerque.
In addition, a computer at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque was also used to conduct branch locator searches on Chase's website on September 30, 2008 -- six days prior to the computer searches at the University of New Mexico. Records obtained from Yahoo! show that Goyette's angry emails to FDIC and OTS in late September were also sent from a computer at Central New Mexico Community College.
According to records obtained from Citibank, Jurek used a credit card to rent a car in Albuquerque on October 17, 2008, the day before the threat letters were postmarked. Goyette, using his New Mexico driver's license under the Jurek name, rented the car at 11:51 a.m. at Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Albuquerque and obtained permission to drive the car into Texas. He returned the car approximately 24 hours later on October 18, 2008, at 11:48 a.m., putting 630 miles on the car. It is approximately 284 miles from Albuquerque to Amarillo.
A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offenses charged, and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jacks praised the excellent, cooperative investigative efforts of the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Drake of the Amarillo, Texas, U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting.