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Posted 19 Nov 2001   For week ended November 16, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 14Nov01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Missionary Pleads Guilty to Anthrax Prank

LAPEER, MICHIGAN -- An LDS missionary serving in the Michigan Detroit Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plead guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor after a letter he sent to another missionary leaked white powder in a Flint, Michigan postal facility. Elder Carl E. Johnson, 20, accepted responsibility for the prank and agreed to pay restitution for laboratory tests and other costs incurred because of his prank. At sentencing, he faces up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000 in addition to restitution.

The prank shut down part of a Flint postal center October 16th after mail sorters spotted the letter leaking during sorting. Postal authorities at first assumed the powder was cocaine, but then discovered that the letter read, in part, "P.S. this is anthrax, congrats."

While testing the letter, authorities tried to contact Johnson and the recipient of the letter, another missionary who Johnson met last April. But investigators found it difficult to get in touch with either man, until they realized the men were LDS missionaries and asked the Church for assistance.

The intended recipient, who is not identified in news reports or implicated in the hoax, told investigators that he would have know that the letter was a joke as soon as he saw it, "The young man told us he would have recognized it had he received it," said postal inspector and Detroit office public information officer Fred Van de Putte. "The deal is that it got noticed by somebody who didn't know it was a joke."

Prosecutors say they don't think the joke was very funny, "We're going to back up any postal worker who comes across this kind of thing and (prosecute) people who send this kind of stuff in the mail." said Lapeer County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tim Turkelson. "We want everyone to know that even if they mean it as a joke, we will take it seriously and hold people accountable." Van de Putte added, "We've got big problems with the people who think this is funny. We will prosecute anybody for doing this."

Federal authorities recognized that the letter was just a joke, and passed the case on to county prosecutors because they believed that federal penalties would be too harsh in the case. But, they did want the matter pursued. The case is the second anthrax hoax resulting in misdemeanor charges in the Flint area, following three workers at the Flint Truck Assembly Plant who allegedly put an envelope with baby powder in a truck on the assembly line.

Johnson will be sentenced December 16th. LDS officials told local media that he will be sent home from his mission.


Imlay City man, 20, admits mail hoax
Flint MI Journal 9Nov01 P1
By Ken Palmer: Journal Staff Writer

Prank letter brings arrest, not laughs, for Imlay City man
Flint MI Journal 7Nov01 P1
By James L. Smith : Journal Staff Writer


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