DALLAS (CN) – A New Mexico man who mailed 65 threatening letters to banks and federal agencies was sentenced Thursday to 46 months in federal prison. Virtually all of the letters contained a suspicious white powder, which disrupted operations at JP Morgan Chase, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision.
“Richard Goyette’s 46-month sentence should serve as a warning to those who intend to misuse the U.S. Mails for this type of criminal activity,” said Randall C. Till, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Fort Worth Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service remains vigilant, pursuing criminals like Goyette to ensure the public’s trust in a safe and secure mail system.”
The anonymous letters began arriving on Oct. 28, 2008, weeks after Washington Mutual Bank was seized by the Office of Thrift Supervision and placed into receivership with the FDIC. Washington Mutual’s share price plunged to less than $1. The FDIC then sold the bank’s deposits, branches, and loan portfolio to JP Morgan Chase for a fraction of their combined value.
Goyette said his Washington Mutual stock lost $63,525 in value, Reuters reported at the time. Washington Mutual was the thirteenth domestic bank to fail in 2008.
Postmarked from Amarillo, the letters were received in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Sixty-four of the 65 letters contained the white powder, along with threats that whoever breathed the powder would die within 10 days. The 65th letter, to the bank, did not contain white powder but included a threat of the “McVeighing of your corporate headquarters within six months” – a reference to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.
“All of the letters containing powder were field screened and then tested at laboratories. All tests were negative for any hazardous materials,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “The letters required the attention of emergency responders and hazardous material response teams for hours at an unknown cost.”
Investigators determined that a computer at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, was used on Oct. 5, 2008, to access the bank’s Web site and search addresses for nearly all of the Chase Bank braches that received the letters. They determined that the same computer was used on the same date to access OTS’s Web site and search for all the OTS offices which received the letters. The computer was also used to access the FDIC Web site that day. The bank branch locator searches from that computer were the only searches conducted in the months leading up to the mailings that included that many victim branches.
A week earlier, a computer at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque was used to conduct branch locator searches on Chase’s Web site. Goyette had been a student at both UNM and Central New Mexico.
Investigators say that on Oct. 17, 2008, one day before the letters were mailed from Amarillo, Goyette rented a car in Albuquerque under the alias Michael Jurek and got permission to drive the car to Texas. He returned the car about 24 hours later, having put 630 miles on it. A round trip between Albuquerque and Amarillo is about 580 miles.
Goyette was arrested in February and pleaded guilty in March to one count of threats and false information and one count of threats and hoaxes. In addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $87,734.40 in restitution to law enforcement agencies.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Drake, in Amarillo.