POSTAL INSPECTORS ARREST TWO MEN FOR MAILING HOAX LETTERS
BIRMINGHAM - U.S. Postal Inspectors arrested two men Saturday after they mailed eight letters containing white powder at the Pell City Post Office, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, U.S. Postal Inspector Frank Dyer and Federal Protective Services Threat Management Branch Chief Curtis Huston announced.
CLIFTON LAMAR “CLIFFORD” DODD, 38, of Lincoln, and MILSTEAD EARL DARDEN, 38, of Montevallo, were arrested on charges of mailing hoax letters. They had an initial appearance before a federal magistrate today on the charges. DARDEN was released on bond. DODD remains in jail pending a detention hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Ott.
DODD AND DARDEN were apprehended Saturday after they deposited letters in an outdoor drop box at the Pell City Post Office. DODD is a suspect in the mailing of 17 letters containing white powder in March and April. One of those letters was received at U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office in the Robert S. Vance Federal Building in Birmingham on March 8.
The hoax letters mailed in March and April are not connected to 11 letters mailed in January to the offices of U.S. senators and representatives in Alabama, including Sen. Shelby’s office. DODD and DARDEN are not considered suspects in that case, which is still under investigation.
“When people receive or handle mailed letters that contain white powder, they are put in fear of whether their health is at risk and must endure medical precautions against poisonous contaminants,” Vance said. “The response and testing required on every potentially hazardous letter costs taxpayers thousands of dollars. We will always thoroughly investigate and vigorously prosecute these cases.”
“They may have only been hoax letters, but since Saturday evening these two men have learned that placing powder in the U.S. Mail is no laughing matter,” said Inspector in Charge Martin Phanco, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Atlanta Division. “How dare anyone make sport of a post 9/11 scenario in which letters contaminated with anthrax took the lives of two postal workers? These arrests again prove the diligence of postal inspectors to keep the nation’s mail system safe from criminal attack,” Phanco said.
Recipients of white-powder letters that DODD is suspected of sending in March and April, other than Sen. Shelby, include Alabama Sen. Jim Preuitt of Talladega, two Talladega County state court judges, Talladega County Sheriff Jerry Studdard, several Talladega County Jail inmates who were in the jail at the same time as DODD, and police investigators from both the Lincoln and Oxford police departments who previously had interviewed DODD, according the affidavit filed in court Monday in support of the criminal complaint against DODD and DARDEN.
The complaint says the two men drove to the Pell City Post Office about 8 p.m. Saturday and stopped beside the outdoor collection boxes. DODD got out of the vehicle and walked to the boxes. The men were arrested after postal authorities opened the collection boxes and investigators found eight letters leaking white powder and bearing some handwriting similar to previous hoax letters, the affidavit said.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI, the Federal Protective Services and the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Whisonant.
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