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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 26, 2021

Former Elementary School Teacher Pleads Guilty To Sending Suspicious Powder Mailings To Elementary Schools Throughout Central Florida

Tampa, Florida – Acting United States Attorney Karin Hoppmann announces that Maria Bassi Lauro (66, Davenport) has pleaded guilty in connection with sending threatening mailings containing suspicious powder to elementary schools throughout central Florida. Lauro faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

According to the plea agreement, beginning in August 2018, Lauro sent threatening mailings to employees at four Central Florida elementary schools where she had worked as a teacher: Citrus Ridge Academy and Four Corners Charter School in Davenport, Groveland Elementary School in Groveland, and Laurel Elementary School in Poinciana. All four of the mailings contained a suspicious powder, and three of the mailings included notes indicating they were “punishment.” Law enforcement and HAZMAT-trained personnel responded to each of the schools after employees opened the mailings and found the unidentified powder.  Ultimately, after testing, authorities determined each of the mailings contained sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda.

Lauro had effectively been fired for poor performance from each of the schools to which she sent the mailings, and each victim who received one of the letters had played a role in her performance review at and/or her terminations.

In her plea agreement, Lauro admitted she had sent the mailings because she was upset with each victim and school. Additionally, she admitted she sent the mailings with the intent to threaten each victim and cause them to believe he or she had been exposed to a deadly biological toxin.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel George.

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Updated March 26, 2021