DENVER—Matthew O’Neill, aka Matt O’Neill, age 52, of Kremmling, Colorado, pled guilty earlier this week to one count of providing false information related to a terrorism offense, U.S. Attorney John Walsh, FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge James Yacone, and Acting U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke announced today. O’Neill, who was originally charged by criminal complaint on May 27, 2011 and indicted by a federal grand jury on June 6, 2011, will be sentenced on June 4, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on May 25, 2011, a mail room employee with the Colorado Department of Revenue received a legal-sized manila envelope with a return address of “M. O’Neill . . . Kremmling CO”. It was mailed to the “State of Colorado; Colorado Dept of Revenue; 1375 Sherman Street; Denver, CO.” The envelope had postal markings on it indicating that the envelope went through the mail, originating from the U.S. Post Office in Kremmling, Colorado. The mail room employee opened the envelope, stapled documents that were inside the envelope, and routed it to the intended recipient. This process was common for how the Colorado Department of Revenue handled mailed. The recipient placed the envelope on her desk, at which point an unidentified white powder fell out of the envelope onto the desk. The Revenue employee then took the contents to another person’s office. Together they set it on the desk, left the office and locked the door. They then notified the floor manager who immediately contacted the Colorado State Patrol and 911. Believing they had both been exposed to some kind of harmful chemical or biological substance, the two attempted to decontaminate themselves by washing their hands. They then waited for the Denver Fire Department and the Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) team. The building was subsequently evacuated.
The Denver Fire Department’s HAZMAT team entered the building, utilizing proper protective equipment to maintain their safety while dealing with an unknown hazardous material. The team field tested the powder in the envelope, which turned out to be sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The Department of Revenue’s intended recipient was interviewed and stated that O’Neill has sent several documents that express his views as a sovereign citizen, and that he believes that he does not have to pay state or federal taxes. She further stated that she felt threatened by the contents of the envelope, fearing that the white powder was some sort of harmful substance.
The FBI and a U.S. Postal Inspector interviewed a U.S. Postal employee in Kremmling, Colorado. The postal employee stated that on May 17, 2011, O’Neil was in the facility, filled out documents for certified or registered mail. He then left and re-entered several times before finally mailing the envelope.
O’Neill was questioned on May 31, 2011 by law enforcement. During that interview it was determined that he mailed the package with white powder with hopes of leading the Department of Revenue to believe they were receiving a dangerous biological or chemical agent.
“Those who mail a threat, especially one containing material simulating a biological or chemical agent, will face felony criminal consequences,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.
“All threatening communications are taken seriously, the recipient of these types of threats cannot determine the true nature of the implied, or stated danger,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge James Yacone. “The FBI wants to remind everyone that mailing a threatening communication that contains a hoax of any kind in a parcel will be aggressively investigated. We will continue to respond to such threats, along with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, through the combined resources of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Though the powder contained in the mailing was not harmful, the threatening mailings not only constitute a federal crime, but cause alarm to victims and victim institutions,” said Denver Division Acting Postal Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke. “Postal Inspectors will continue to ensure the safety of the U.S. Mail through aggressive investigation of anyone who mails these types of threats—real or hoax.”
O’Neill faces not more than five years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.
This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Colorado State Patrol through their investigators assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
O’Neill is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Barrett.