- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2014

A Texas man was arrested Monday for a mail hoax in which he sent more than 500 letters containing white powder, prompting hazardous-material crews to be called into schools, public offices and, most recently, hotels in the vicinity of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Hong Minh Truong, 66, started mailing the letters in batches in 2008 from the North Texas area to cities across the nation and U.S. embassies abroad and continued until his arrest, the FBI said in a statement.

He is charged with false information and hoaxes, the FBI said. The arrest was the result of a joint operation between the bureau and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“For almost six years, letters containing white powder — and believed to have been mailed by the same individual — have elicited law enforcement and public safety responses from numerous local, state and federal agencies,” said Diego Rodriguez, the special agent in charge of FBI’s Dallas office. “While it was determined that the mailings did not contain toxins or poisons, each incident required a field screening of the letter’s contents, which cost taxpayer dollars and diverted first responder resources.”

On May 7, 2012, the letters mailed from the Dallas area contained a white powder substance and the following statement: “Al Qaeda back! What the hell where are you Scooby Doo, Counter Intelligence, CIA, you do not know how to catch the triple dealer spy in your law enforcement. We are Al Qaeda, U.B.L FBI, Al Qaeda, SS Nazi FBI, working in your agency. We claim everything.”

The May letters were sent to preschools and elementary schools across the country as well as to Lockheed Martin in Grand Prairie, Texas.

In June 2013, 28 public schools in Boston received letters that resulted in hazmat responses, with the investigation leading to the identification of an IP address in Rowlett, Texas, associated with Mr. Truong.

Mr. Truong’s alleged criminal actions caused emergency responders and hazardous response teams immense unnecessary labor and expense, diverted personnel from actual emergencies and caused untold emotional distress to those who received the letters,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas. “I commend the excellent investigative work of the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service that led to today’s arrest.”

The government has 30 days to present the matter to a federal grand jury for indictment. The maximum statutory penalty for the offense as charged is five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.