News and Press Releases

MONTEVALLO MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRING TO MAIL HOAX LETTERS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2010


BIRMINGHAM – A 38-year-old Montevallo man pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon to conspiracy to mail hoax anthrax letters in April, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Martin Phanco announced.

MILSTEAD EARL “MICKEY” DARDEN admitted he conspired with Clifton Lamar “Cliff” Dodd, 38, of Lincoln, to mail eight threatening hoax letters on April 24. U.S. Postal Inspectors arrested the two men shortly after they deposited the eight letters in a Pell City Post Office drop box. The letters contained white powder, which was tested and found not be anthrax.

“These type letters are a threat, not a joke,” Vance said. “When people open or handle letters containing white powder, they fear for their health and must endure medical precautions against poisonous contaminants. The emergency response and required testing on every potentially harmful letter is costly,” she said. “These cases will be prosecuted.”

“Tampering with U.S. mail is a serious offense and sending hoax letters to scare postal customers is something that cannot be tolerated,” Phanco said. “Because of the disruption to mail service that such letters cause, the penalties can be just as severe as if they had sent something hazardous.”

DARDEN acknowledged in his plea agreement that he allowed Dodd to prepare and address letters containing white powder while sitting in DARDEN’s truck in the parking lot of a Pell City store on April 24. DARDEN then drove Dodd to the Pell City Post Office, where Dodd placed the letters in a drop box, according to the plea agreement.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to mail hoax anthrax letters is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled Oct. 4 at 9:30 a.m.
           
A federal grand jury indicted DARDEN and Dodd in connection with a series of hoax letters mailed in Alabama in March and April that contained a white powder that could have been perceived as the biological toxin, anthrax. The indictment charged both men with the conspiracy and with mailing the eight letters on April 24. Those letters were intercepted by U.S. Postal Inspectors before they could be delivered. The indictment charged Dodd with mailing an additional15 hoax letters between March 6 and April 5.  Dodd’s case remains pending, a trial date has not been set.

This case was investigated by the U.S Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, the Federal Protective Service and the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Whisonant.

 

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