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Last Updated

22 Aug 2003

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 5, 2001.

Scientist's anthrax claim was bogus

Man with doctorate degree in chemistry was drunk, police say

By GRETCHEN SCHULDT of the Journal Sentinel staff

A week after the terrorist attacks on America, a highly educated scientist told Milwaukee police that he was building an anthrax delivery system in his basement, according to documents filed in federal court.

In these times of heightened alert, the remark earned the man a visit from FBI agents armed with a search warrant, who took the man's computer, and keypads from a telephone and a microwave oven, according to court records. But no deadly anthrax.

As it turns out, police were responding to a neighbor dispute, and the man was intoxicated when he made the anthrax comments to police.

FBI spokeswoman Cathy Fahey said no further investigation is planned and the man, whose resume says he has a doctorate in nuclear and environmental chemistry, is not likely to be charged.

The affidavit says the man apparently was intoxicated when he made the anthrax statement to police just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks left the nation with heightened vigilance against potential biological or chemical threats.

About 200 pounds of anthrax spores released upwind of Washington, D.C., could kill up to 3 million people, according to a government study.

Police were summoned to the man's west side home Sept. 18 by his mother, who feared he would get into a physical confrontation with a neighbor over damage her son allegedly did with a lawn mower to the neighbor's property.

The woman "indicated that her son was usually not violent, but had recently developed an alcohol problem and is unable to control his temper after drinking," according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Parker Shipley.

The affidavit was filed last week in support of a request for a search warrant. The search was conducted Friday.

The affidavit says the man told officers he had worked for subcontractors of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy as a senior research scientist.

His resume, which he provided to the officers, "indicates that his specialty is in the areas of radio chemistry, military ordnance and munitions, and decontamination," the affidavit says.

The man's employment history was verified with a former employer, the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. He was fired twice - in 1996 and 1999 - from his job there as a senior research scientist, according to the affidavit and the man's resume, which also was filed in court.

Battelle "had reason" to search the man's home after he was fired the second time, the affidavit says.

The searchers found chemicals that were not illegal to possess, but an informant told the FBI that the man "has the knowledge and experience to utilize the chemicals that were found in his basement to make a lethal chemical agent," the affidavit says.