A New Mexico man who was apparently upset about losing nearly $64,000 in stock when a bank failed is accused of mailing threatening letters to banks and federal offices around the country, federal officials announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Dallas said Richard Leon Goyette, 47, was arrested at the Albuquerque, N.M., airport Monday. He is charged with a single count of knowingly and intentionally conveying false and misleading information. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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Goyette is accused of mailing 65 threatening letters to financial institutions and federal regulatory offices in 11 states and the District of Columbia in October.
Sixty-four of the letters contained an unidentified white powder that later tested negative for any hazardous materials. Officials said Tuesday the powder was calcium carbonate, a major component of blackboard chalk.
The 65th letter was to Chase Bank. It contained no powder, but included a threat of the "McVeighing of your corporate headquarters within six months." Timothy McVeigh was the domestic terrorist executed for bombing a federal building and killing 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995.
The other letters, postmarked Amarillo, included with the message "It's payback time" and promising death within 10 days were sent in October to banks and financial institutions, according to the FBI.
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Goyette waived his rights to detention and identification hearings Tuesday during an initial appearance in Albuquerque and will be returned to Texas to face the charges. He did not have an attorney present at the initial appearance.
Prosecutors claim the suspect drove to Amarillo in a rented car to mail the letters. Remarks in the mailings protested alleged misuse of bank customers money.
"Mr. Goyette's alleged criminal actions caused emergency responders and hazardous response teams immense unnecessary labor and expense, diverted personnel from actual emergencies, completely disrupted business at these financial institutions, and caused untold emotional distress to those who received letters," said James T. Jacks, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
In late September, officials said, Goyette sent e-mails to the Office of Thrift Supervision, a federal agency that a day earlier had taken over Washington Mutual Bank. Goyette wrote that he lost $63,525 in stock because of the bank's failure.
Three days later, Goyette sent another e-mail to the same agency and this time provided his name and New Mexico mailing address, officials said. Goyette wrote: "This seizure was the final straw and I will now pursue any path to get the return of my investment. Since legal means are apparently useless, I will have to consider any viable method applicable to rightfully reclaim my stolen funds."
About three weeks after the e-mails, threatening letters began showing up at the FDIC, the Office of Thrift Supervision and branches of Chase Bank, which had bought Washington Mutual's deposits, branches and loan portfolio from the FDIC, officials said.
Letters were sent to offices in or near 12 major cities: Arlington, Va.; Atlanta; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Newark, N.J.; New York City; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
One letter was sent to the regional Office of Thrift Supervision in Irving.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service had offered a reward of up to $100,000 for help in arresting the letter mailers.
Federal agents said a separate probe of white powder letters sent to governors is still underway.