HOUSTON (CN) – A Texas woman charged with mailing a homemade bomb in 2016 to then-President Barack Obama, implicated when FBI agents matched a hair that was found on the package’s address label to her cat, pleaded guilty Monday.
Julia Ann Poff, 47, of Brookshire, Texas, also admitted she mailed bombs to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and then-acting Social Security Administrator Carolyn Colvin in October 2016.
Poff faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine for transporting explosives with the intent to kill, injure and intimidate a person.
Mail screeners intercepted packages mailed to Obama and Colvin, but Abbott opened the one mailed to him, according to testimony at Poff’s November 2017 arraignment.
Poff had similarly booby-trapped each package by gluing matches to a flap on a Postal Service box, gluing sandpaper on a flap below the matches, connecting a fuse used for fireworks to the matches, then running the fuse into a smaller box filled with gun power, pyrotechnic powder and buckshot, court records show.
Terry Young, a Brazos County sheriff’s officer and member of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, testified at Poff’s arraignment that the package Abbott opened could have been fatal if it had detonated.
“The type of explosion would be a very large flash that could induce severe burns and lots of severe injury and possibly death,” Young said.
Postal Service inspectors determined that a scuffed-up shipping label on the inner box in Abbott’s package was addressed to Poff’s P.O. Box in Sealy, Texas.
Subpoenas of Poff’s checking account linked her to purchases of material placed in the packages – a Pall Mall cigarettes box, which she had filled with buckshot, and the box for a USB cord she had purchased at Walgreens – and FBI agents learned she had worked at a fireworks stand for seven years. One witness said they had seen large fireworks in her garage.
Pyrotechnic powder is a component of large fireworks.
Young testified at Poff’s arraignment that FBI agents found a gray cat hair underneath the Obama address label and determined it was “microscopically consistent” with Poff’s cat’s hair.
At the time, Poff lived with her husband, two daughters, her son, and three extended family members, all of whom were cleared of helping her assemble or send the packages.
Perrye Turner, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston Office, thanked the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Bryan, Texas, for their work on the case.
“This was a resource-intensive investigation that involved the safety of the Texas Governor, President of the United States and the Social Security Administration,” Turner said in a statement Monday. “Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the threat that Poff posed and the fear she incited was serious and real.