Man Arrested in Probe of Ricin-Laced Letters

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By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) — A 37-year-old man arrested Wednesday in Washington state as part of a probe of ricin-laced letters threatened in one such letter to injure and kill a federal judge, a grand jury indictment alleges.

FBI agents arrested Matthew Ryan Buquet on Wednesday afternoon, and he made his initial court appearance in Spokane later in the day, the federal agency’s Washington state office said in a news release.

A grand jury charged Buquet with mailing threatening communication, claiming he “knowingly and willfully” mailed through the U.S. Postal Service a letter “containing a threat to injure and kill Judge (Fred) Van Sickle,” according to the indictment.

Van Sickle is a senior judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

There was no mention of ricin in the grand jury indictment. The American Postal Workers Union earlier did say a ricin-laced letter was sent to a judge in Spokane, the northeastern Washington city in which Van Sickle works.

Another letter reportedly containing the toxin was directed to the Spokane Post Office, the union said. Both letters were postmarked May 14.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been trying to find the source of the two letters containing ricin since they were intercepted in a screening procedure at a postal facility in Spokane, the FBI said last week.

Postal Service management told employees they weren’t at risk from handling the letters because the suspected substance was not in a form that could be inhaled or readily ingested, the union said. That said, preliminary lab tests did indicate it was indeed ricin.

If inhaled, injected or ingested, less than a pinpoint of ricin can kill a person within 36 to 48 hours because of the failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems. There is no known antidote for the toxin, which is derived from castor beans.

— CNN’s Amanda Watts contributed to this report.