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,
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