Mass. man sentenced for ricin possession

A former Agwam, Mass., man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for the illegal possession of the toxin ricin and for threatening a prosecutor.

Michael Crooker pleaded guilty to the charges in March. He has been in federal custody since 2004 after his arrest on charges of using the mail to transport a firearm, reports. When Crooker's apartment was searched, agents found what appeared to be a weapons lab along with castor and abrus seeds, which are the sources of ricin and abrin poisons.

Prosecutors allege that Crooker later sent a letter to an assistant U.S. attorney in which he stated the name of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock sentenced Croocker on Monday to the maximum of 15 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans in the form of a powder, mist, pellet or to be dissolved in a water or weak acid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ricin was experimented with in the 1940s as a possible warfare agent. It may have been used as a warfare agent in the 1980s in Iraq and more recently by terrorist organizations. Accidental exposure to ricin is very unlikely and it would most likely take a deliberate act to make the toxin and use it to poison people.