Saturday, 2:15 PM
Man charged with threatening a chemical attack on federal building in Springfield
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff
An Agawam man who was being held on a federal firearms charge mailed letters to the prosecutor and a newspaper threatening to attack a federal building in Springfield with a weapon of mass destruction, according to a nine-count indictment unsealed this week.
Federal authorities investigated the threats that Michael A. Crooker made while in custody in July 2004 and found a quantity of the toxin ricin, which had been processed for use as a biological weapon, said the indictment. They also found he had the toxins ricin and abrin in their natural forms in castor beans and rosary peas, respectively.
The indictment unsealed in federal court in Springfield on Monday did not specify the amounts of the toxins, their location, or how dangerous they were, and a spokeswoman for US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan declined to elaborate.
Crooker is serving a sentence of nearly 22 years in federal prison as a result of his conviction in July 2006 for transporting a firearm in interstate commerce as a convicted felon. He allegedly mailed an air rifle and sound muffler that authorities said could be used as an illegal silencer to an Ohio man.
If convicted of the latest charges, he could be imprisoned for life.
Crooker, now 53, was arrested on June 23, 2004, in his car with a pipe-shaped bomb containing potassium perchlorate and aluminum powder, Assistant US Attorney Kevin O'Regan said in court shortly afterward. Investigators found similar devices in Crooker's apartment, which prompted authorities to evacuate about 50 residents in two apartment houses.
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