AGENCIES PROBE BIOHAZARD SCARE IN NORTHERN MARIANAS

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By Marian A. Maraya Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 12, 2001 -- Saipan Tribune)---Law enforcement agencies are investigating Thursday's biohazard scare, in a bid to bring to justice those responsible for the threatening acts against members of the community.

[See: Saipan Woman Sustains Rashes From Suspected Anthrax Scare]

The U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service have launched joint investigations, underscoring the serious nature of the criminal offense called "threatening mail."

Frederick A. Black, the U.S. Attorney for the districts of Guam and the CNMI, said Friday that any incidents involving threats through the mail will be vigorously investigated and anyone caught perpetrating such crimes will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Police Commissioner Charles W. Ingram Jr. said the DPS Criminal Bureau of Investigation has also started conducting its own probe since Thursday night.

A person or parties suspected of committing threatening mailings face federal criminal violations, including the "Use of Certain Weapons of Mass Destruction," which is punishable by death, or imprisonment for any term of years or life, with a fine of up to $250,000, according to Black.

Suspected individuals behind Thursday's biohazard threats may also be cited for "Mailing Threatening Communications," which carries a penalty of imprisonment up to five years, and a fine up to $250,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office also warned that suspects face criminal raps covered in Title 18, Section 1716 of the United States Code regarding "Injurious Articles as Nonmailable." This carries a penalty of imprisonment up to ten years, and if death results, life imprisonment or punishment by death, and a fine of up to $10,000.

"In the wake of the events of the September 11, 2001, it is imperative that all citizens work together to continue to make our country a safe place to live. Using the mails to threaten or scare others simply will not be tolerated. The law enforcement community encourages all citizens who have any information about any such incidents to notify the FBI or the DPS," said Black.

Last Thursday, emergency response units rushed to the Pacific Medical Center in Middle Road over suspicions of a biohazard threat.

According to earlier reports, a woman rushed herself to the private clinic after opening a mail envelope containing a white, powdery substance. The envelope reportedly had no return address.

An investigation continues.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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