A Rowlett man was arrested Monday by federal agents who accused him of sending more than 500 letters containing white powder to government offices, businesses, schools and child-care centers since December 2008, the U.S. attorney’s office announced.
The white powder proved harmless. But because it was presumed to be toxic or poisonous, “each incident required a field screening of the letter’s contents, which cost taxpayer dollars and diverted first responder resources,” said Diego Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office.
Hong Minh Truong, 66, is charged with false information and hoaxes, according to a federal complaint. Truong made his initial appearance Monday before a U.S. magistrate in Dallas, who ordered that he remain in federal custody, a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Since December 2008, the letters were mailed from North Texas to cities nationwide and to U.S. embassies abroad.
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Investigators identified more than 15 batches of similar letters sent from the Dallas area. The language used in the letters as well as the method of sending the letters indicated that one person was responsible for all of them, the release said.
In all but two of the batches of letters, a white powdery substance was included in the envelope, according to the release.
On May 7, 2012, the hoax letters contained a white powdery substance and the following statement: “Al Qaeda back! Special thing for you. 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. What the hell where are you Scooby Doo, Internal Affairs, FBI, you don't know how to arrest the bad cop in your law enforcement.”
These letters were sent to preschools and elementary schools across the country as well as to the Lockheed Martin plant in Grand Prairie. Hazardous material teams responded to the locations where the letters were opened, the release said.
In June 2013, 28 public schools in Boston received letters that resulted in responses from hazardous materials teams. That investigation resulted in the identification of an IP address in Rowlett associated with Truong.
The letters to Boston schools stated: “We are terrorist victim from Al-Queada FBI, Communist FBI and Nazi FBI in Texas. We let you all know to aware. They have been forcing and controlling us to do something to harm the America. They conspire against the U.S.A. and attack anywhere to murder on many ways American people.”
In 2002, Truong came to the attention of the Dallas police, who interviewed him. He told officers that he hears voices in his head and that officers with federal and local agencies were after him and beaming radar into his body. Truong said the voices were telling him to do things that he did not want to do.
Subsequently, investigators found that some of the language was similar to that in the letters sent to Boston schools. In Truong’s trash, agents found an inkjet printer and pages of torn documents that linked him to the letters.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña said.