RIPR News
1:00 pm
Wed October 17, 2001

Man Charged With Anthrax Hoax

The federal government is bringing charges against a Portsmouth man who allegedly claimed that there was Anthrax in a letter he mailed to a Lincoln couple. A threat was included in the letter with a white powdery substance, according to federal prosecutors in Rhode Island.

William Sylvia is charged with one count of mailing a threatening communication. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Sylvia admitted sending the letter but claimed it was a joke, according to prosecutors. Sylvia is known to have an ongoing dispute with the couple, who received the letter on Saturday.

State and federal authorities used the case to send a warning that all bio-terrorism hoaxes in the Rhode Island will result in prosecution. ?If people out there are thinking this is funny, this is a good idea, please be advised that you will be prosecuted that this will not be viewed as a joke,? said Meg Curran, US Attorney for Rhode Island.

?Whether they are Anthrax or other bio-terrorism hoaxes, they are scaring people. They are disrupting workplaces and costing taxpayers millions of dollars,? she added.

Rhode Island State Police and the FBI say their resources are being strained as they try to respond to an ?avalanche? of bomb and Anthrax calls. Federal investigators responded to 100 apparent Anthrax hoaxes between Saturday and Monday, according to US Postal Inspector Kenneth Jones.

Listen to the report by WRNI's Av Harris.