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Press Release

Belarus Man Indicted For Mailing Ricin And Threats To Pelican Bay State Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Vladislav Victorvic Timoshchuk with attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon, mailing threatening communications, and mailing an injurious article, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

According to the indictment, Timoshchuk, 34, of Belarus, is alleged to have sent two envelopes containing ricin to Pelican Bay State Prison.  One of the envelopes was addressed to the Warden and contained ricin and a note, which read: “WARNING!  TOXIC! THIS LETTER IS LACED WITH DEADLY RICIN POWDER.”  The other envelope was addressed to inmate A.C. and contained ricin and a note, which read in part: “Release inmate A.C.” 

The indictment further alleges that Timoshchuk had previously been incarcerated in California state prison facilities, after which he was deported from the United States to Belarus.  In 2016 and into 2018, Pelican Bay State Prison intercepted letters postmarked from Belarus to members of a prison gang, including to inmate A.C.  In that same timeframe, in 2017, the Anaheim Police Department investigated a school shooting threat, which demanded the release of inmate A.C. from Pelican Bay State Prison in order to avoid the “execution” of a student every day until that release occurred.  Later, in 2019, the Bureau of Prisons intercepted a Christmas card sent from Belarus to inmate Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in which Timoshchuk claimed responsibility for the threats to Anaheim schools and discussed a plan to mail ricin to the United States. 

The indictment, filed on February 20, 2020, charges Timoshchuk with two counts of attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 175(a); two counts of interstate and foreign communication of a threat, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c); and two counts of mailing an injuries article, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1716(j)(1).  Timoschuk is not charged for threats other than the two mailings to Pelican Bay.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of life for each attempted transfer of a toxin for use as a weapon; a maximum of five years for each interstate and foreign communication of a threat; and a maximum sentence of one year for each mailing of an injurious article.  Each charge also carries a potential term of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution as ordered by the court.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the United States Attorney’s Office.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI with the assistance of state and local law enforcement partners and the U.S. Postal Service.

Updated February 21, 2020