Man Arrested in Connection with White Powder Letters to Lawmakers

Billy House

A 39-year old man has been indicted and arrested in connection with what federal authorities say were mailings of about 100 threatening letters containing a powdery substance to the offices of members of Congress.

Christopher Lee Carlson was taken into custody Friday at his home in the Portland, Ore.-Vancouver, Wash., metro area, according to a statement Friday night by U.S. Capitol Police.

Carlson is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Portland on Monday.

An indictment handed up on Friday by a federal grand jury in Portland specifically charges Carlson with two criminal offenses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

One count relates to the alleged mailing of a threatening communication to a member of Congress, with the indictment identifying an office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as a recipient. The second count accuses Carlson of mailing a letter threatening to use a biological weapon to a U.S. senator, with the Baltimore office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., listed as the recipient.

However, in all, more than 100 threatening letters sent to federal lawmakers and some members of the media similarly containing white powder and postmarked from Portland have been recovered by federal authorities that include the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Capitol Police, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

To date, all letters have tested negative for toxic substances. In several of the cases made public, the powder was determined to be corn starch, or corn starch mixed with some other harmless substance.

The indictment does not suggest a motive for sending the letters. It says the letter to Boehner’s office was deposited for mailing at a post office on or about Feb. 18, while the letter to Mikulski’s office was sent sometime between Feb. 20 and Feb. 24.

“Anyone who sends threatening letters to government officials should expect to be found, arrested, and prosecuted,” said Portland-based U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall, in a statement.

“Threatening letters – whether hoax or real – are serious concerns that federal law enforcement agencies will aggressively pursue,” added Greg Fowler, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “We want to thank our partners at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Capitol Police who worked with us day-in and day-out for the past two weeks to bring this case to this resolution.”

Word of the letters being sent to the home and district offices of lawmakers surfaced publicly on Feb. 22, leading the FBI, sergeants-at-arms for both chambers, and other authorities to advise House and Senate offices to be cautious in handling mail, and to particularly be watchful of mail listing a Portland street address for "The MIB, L.L.C."

Television comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert also received letters stating that similar powder-filled mailings would be sent to 100 senators and that 10 percent of them would contain "lethal pathogens.”