A high-tech computer system that captures images of “every mail piece that is processed” by the United State Postal Service was critical in helping federal agents track the Texas woman arrested today for allegedly sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In a U.S. District Court complaint filed today against Shannon Guess Richardson, an FBI agent details how investigators traced the ricin letters back to New Boston, Texas, where the 35-year-old Richardson lives with her husband.
The Bloomberg letter was opened at a municipal mail center in Manhattan on May 24, while the letter to Obama was intercepted May 30 at an off-site White House mail facility. A third ricin letter–sent to an anti-gun group funded by Bloomberg–was received at a Washington, D.C. office on May 26.
According to FBI Agent James Spiropoulos, investigators accessed a Postal Service computer system that “incorporates a Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program which photographs and captures an image of every mail piece that is processed.” Agents were able to obtain front and back images of about 20 mail pieces that had been processed “immediately before the mail piece addressed to Mayor Bloomberg.”
A review of that mail revealed that each piece carried return addresses listing zip codes in the New Boston area.
A similar analysis of 40 mail pieces that were processed “immediately before and after the mail piece addressed to President Obama” showed that several of those letters listed addresses in two Texas cities near New Boston.
According to the felony complaint against Richardson, she confessed yesterday to “mailing the three letters–knowing that they contained ricin.” She repeated earlier claims that her husband Nathaniel, who has not been charged, was involved with the Obama and Bloomberg mailings. Richardson alleged that her spouse “typed the letters and made her print and mail them,” reported Agent Spiropoulos.
If convicted of the ricin mailings, Richardson, an aspiring actress, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and fine of up to $250,000.