New York man convicted over anthrax hoax

A New York man was recently convicted by a federal jury in Newark, New Jersey, of committing a white powder terrorism hoax.

Philip D. Meyer of Chester, New York, was accused of mailing an envelope containing a white powder to the Newark offices of the Star Ledger newspaper.

At the time the incident occurred, Meyer had been employed by the newspaper as a delivery driver for over 15 years, but had recently been suspended for reasons relating to his job performance.

In early February 2010, Meyer’s supervisor, Anthony Paglia, sent Meyer a request to mail back Department of Transportation logs detailing the hours Meyer had worked for two months in 2010. Included in the request was a business reply envelope addressed to Paglia.

On February 16, the newspaper’s circulation manager received a voicemail from Meyer listing a number of grievances against Paglia and a statement saying it was “time to retaliate.” The next day, Paglia opened the business reply envelope sent back from Meyer and found that it contained a white powder.

Federal agents and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force immediately investigated the newspaper’s offices. An inspector from the United States Postal Inspection’s Dangerous Mail Investigation Unit conducted a field test of the powder and found it to be harmless.

On February 19, Meyer was arrested at his home in Chester, New York, by members of the Newark and New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. A HAZMAT team identified and seized a canister of powder from the residence. It was later confirmed not to contain any toxins or dangerous biological agents.

In a post-arrest interview, Meyer admitted that he wanted to scare his boss by sending him the envelope. Meyer told an agent that he had hoped Paglia would think the powder was either cocaine or anthrax, but that he simply meant it to be a joke.

Meyer will be sentenced in June 2011. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following any prison term.

"Paul Meyer's conviction should serve as a warning to those who intend to misuse the United States mail for this type of criminal activity," Thomas Boyle, the acting inspector in charge of the Newark Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, said.